Hank entered his Happenbach apartment and greeted his wife late in the day Thursday, September 19. My first REFORGER is finally over. Amy hugged him and saw that he was morose. She hugged him tighter and felt him sigh. She pulled back with a worried expression. “Hank, you didn’t accidentally bring your codebook home, did you?”
“Of course not. I’d be court-martialed.”
“What’s that?” Amy pointed to the rectangular shape in his field jacket.
“Oh, this.” Hank extracted the blue case with gold piping and handed it to Amy. “I got a medal.”
She opened the case and ran her fingers from top to bottom over the award, from the green, blue, and white ribbon, over the powdered bronze medal itself. She moved the tip of her finger over the raised This We’ll Defend banner, the Roman cuirass, the US Flag, and the 1775 emboss. She flipped the medal over and read. “For Military Achievement.” She looked up at her soldier husband. “This is so cool! What did you get it for?”
“Well, we went out to V Corps, and I fried this rig, and then Holmes and Mack saved me . . .” He frowned. “I don’t know what the fuck I got this for.”
“Mack saved you?” She grabbed her husband by the shoulders and locked eyes with him. “What’s the matter with you?”
“I wanted to get my gear off first.” He inhaled and then sobbed. “Mike Stryker was killed out there.”
“Mike Stryker was killed! How?”
“Some type of vehicle mishap.”
“What do you mean vehicle mishap?”
“Honey, I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Steve Erauls sent me a message, and that’s all he said: vehicle mishap.”
The following day Second Lieutenant Rudzinski went back to the barracks to tend to the recovery activities. Although they had topped off and combat parked all vehicles the previous evening all rigs still had to be washed and rechecked. By noon, Rudzinski ensured that the communications vehicles for his Access Platoon and the rigs for his Maintenance Platoon were cleaned and serviced. Let’s get everybody home to an early weekend. He then remembered that Amy had made plans. Damn, we’re all going to Munich by train tomorrow for the Oktoberfest. He frowned. I don’t want to go. I want to grieve.
He got to his apartment by midday, changed into faded jeans and a T-shirt, took a bottle of Seagram’s Seven whiskey to the coffee table, and poured himself a double shot. Hank gagged down a sip. I just want to numb everything. He took the double shot again, and as he was about to raise it, Amy clasped his hand. “Stop!”
“Honey, I just need to stop feeling so bad. I need to numb . . .” He looked up at his wife, and his train of thought was interrupted. “It’s . . . er . . . ah . . . damn! What are you wearing?” Amy stood before him, provocatively displayed in a sheer knee-high blouse.
She lowered the whiskey to the table, clasped both of Hank’s hands, and pulled him to his feet. “We’re not going to numb anything. We’re going to feel!”
She led him to the bedroom. For the next few hours she used all of her sexuality, love, and intensity; she healed her husband and, in doing so, healed herself. They reached heights of passionate pleasure; relaxed and chuckled, recounting Mike’s ROTC parachute landings at a college dance; used their youth to rekindle their passion with even higher ecstasy; and then hugged and cried about a lost friend taken too young. Their embraces, laughter, and tears mingled until exhaustion of bodies and emotions made them realize both that the hurt could be borne and that their love was their most precious possession.
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