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Without Glory – Aftermath

The members of A-Team sit around our open-bay barracks. Everyone but Billings is drinking. The mood is tense. It’s so thick that the air could be cut with a knife. No one has spoken more than a word or two in the last hour. We suffer within ourselves, unable to share our grief openly.

“Do you think he felt it?” Worm asks no one in particular in a weak, bitter voice.

“No,” Doc replies, clearing his throat. “No, I think it was over before he knew what hit him.”

“I hope so; I really hope he didn’t feel it.” Worm chokes back the tears. “I’m really sorry I said all them stupid things to him. Really, guys, I liked him. He was my best friend.”

“Say his name, Worm,” Billings interrupts.

“What?” Worm glances up at Billings, his face twisted in anguish. “I can’t!”

“Look, Gentlemen,” Billings declares in a clear, controlled voice. “I want everyone to say his name. You have to face this. We’ve got to go back out there; you all knew this could happen. We have to face the fact that this is a war. Others in this group will die. That you can count on.” He pauses for a moment before clearing his throat. “You need to get past this. I need each of you with a clear head out there. Clint, give me a beer!”

I throw Billings a beer, knowing he doesn’t drink, but I don’t question the request. Billings opens the beer can with a P38 c-ration can opener. He stands before us, raising the beer in salute.

“To Willie, our fallen friend, may his death not be our downfall. Let Willie remind us of our duty and honor, and what our cost is!” Billings takes the first mouthful of beer I’ve ever seen him drink.

I stand across the small room from Billings. “To Willie,” I pronounce as I lift my beer can above my head. “Remembering is for those who’ve been forgotten. Willie, my friend, we’ll not forget you!”

Smitty is next to stand, offering a salute. “To Willie, a real American!” His voice is cold as death itself.

“Oui, to Willie,” utters Frenchie as he rises to join us. “Dieu vous garde! God keep you!”

Gator stands with us. His eyes mist over. “To a dear pondna, Willie!”

“To Willie.” Tex pushes himself out of the chair. His voice quavering, he says, “I’ll remember ya, Jim.”

“To Willie, rest in peace, mate,” Stoney says.

“Willie,” Loverboy says, with haunted-looking eyes, “Your memory will guide us on our journey. May a thousand angles attend your every need.”

Doc stands, “To Willie. If you know what we feel for you, you’re happy in your new home!”

Worm slowly gets out of his bed. His body slouching, his chin sunk dejectedly into his chest, and he mumbles chokingly, “To Willie. I promise, my friend, they’ll pay.”

I watch as we stand united, an all-for-one and one for all A-Team. Then we drink a final toast, paying homage to our fallen hero.


The term posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become a household name since its first appearance in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-lll) published by the American Psychiatric Association, In the collective mind, this diagnosis is associated with the legacy of the Vietnam War disaster. Earlier conflicts had given birth to terms such as “soldier’s heart,” “shell shock,” and “war neurosis.” The latter diagnosis was equivalent to the névrose de guerre and Kriegsneurose of French and German scientific literature.1

 

1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181586

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