Summary: John Sheppard sends a basewide email regarding the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.
TO: BASEWIDE MILITARY PERSONNEL
RE: Sgt. B. Bergdahl
This is not an official email from your commanding officer. This is one soldier talking to another.
There's been a lot of chatter on base regarding Sgt. Bergdahl, some of it saying we did a good thing--that whatever went down, we never leave anyone behind.
Some of it says that Bergdahl wasn't worth it. The bastard walked off, at a minimum put the soldiers in his unit in danger, and was responsible for getting several killed in their attempts to free him. Because of him, they released a bunch of Taliban militants who will, no question, kill more American soldiers at their first opportunity. Yeah, maybe all that is true. I don't know.
What do I know?
I'm going to say things that no soldier says out loud, but I think they need to be said. There have been times in my career when I wanted to walk off base. When I thought, I can't kill another person. I can't pull that trigger again. I can't witness the slaughter that I know is five minutes away. I will go fucking nuts if I have to use my belt yet again to stop someone from bleeding out because they ran over an IED and their legs just got blown off. I have been there. I have wanted to walk off.
I didn't. Somehow I dialed up what some would call courage and bravery, others would call stupidity, and I managed to do what I was trained to do. One more day down. Maybe I saved more than I killed. That's a good motto to hang onto. It's stopped me from losing my shit more than once.
Anyone who tells you that they've been on the front lines and they weren't pissing in their pants with fear every single goddamn minute, then they are a liar. I've been on the front lines. I did my job. But I was afraid. And every single day I woke up, I was terrified that one day I wouldn't be able to dial up that courage, that bravery, and face what was out there.
Sgt. Bergdalh might be a flaming asshole. He might be a coward. And he might have said to himself, I can't dial it up today. And while a lot of people have condemned him and continue to condemn him, I know that no one tells you when you enlist that chances are that you will kill people and witness carnage that defies description and watch children being blown apart. You keep on putting on that uniform, even though day after day after day you watch your friends bleed out and your kids growing up without you, and, by the way, your wife left you for a guy who is home twelve months out of the year. Takes some serious stones to put on a uniform. That's gender neutral by the way. Cadman has the biggest pair on this base and anyone who thinks differently is really dumb.
When you enlist they say a lot of stuff about honoring your country and it's the biggest sacrifice there is. I believe that or I wouldn't be here. I also know that I see the face of the first man I killed every single night before I go to sleep.
The one thing that stops me from going nuts is the understanding that we leave no one behind because everyone is worth the cost. When they put on a uniform, they become worth it. That even fuck-ups and cowards and assholes deserve to be brought home. They are soldiers. They have an impossible job. And when you're called upon to do the impossible and you find you can't do it, no one is going to get shit from me because of it. I will still bring you home. You deserve that. I leave no one behind. That means everyone on this base. We all struggle to maintain our humanity while doing inhuman things. Some of us are better at it than others. I honor you for your struggle, soldier. If you aren't struggling, then transfer out. I'll sign your papers no questions asked.
I've defied orders to bring people home, and I've taken it in the chops in terms of promotions. A lot of my C.O.s have hated my fucking guts. But you should know, if you go out there, I'm on your six. If you don't come home, I don't care who you are, I'm going after you. I'm going FOR you, even if others say you don't deserve it. In my world, if you put on a uniform, that says to me that you deserve to come home. And you won't hear me call you a coward. You'll hear me say, "Welcome home, soldier."
You are ALL worth the cost.
John Sheppard, Soldier
Rodney and John are heading for the mess, arguing about the specs for a coffee maker in John's favorite jumper. John wants it housed near the pilot's seat, because maybe the pilot needs to stay awake when flying a jumper? Rodney wants it to be modular so that he can move it to wherever he is seated. John refuses to agree to that because with that set-up he will never get a cup of coffee, ever. Rodney will inhale every single cup. They've had this argument about 400 times. It's just as gratifying the 401st time as it was the first time.
The second they enter the mess every one gets to their feet and stands to attention in formation, like it's some sort of military drill. They salute John and stand ready. He salutes them back, but not in that half-assed, half sarcastic slouchy salute he normally gives. This is a formal salute. A real salute. John says in a quiet voice, "At ease."
They don't "ease." They just stand there, like they are honoring John. Rodney doesn't know what in the hell is going on. Several of the Marines have tears on their cheeks. John is silently acknowledging people as he walks by, a nod here and there. If John hadn't had a tray in his hand, Rodney would have sworn John would have shaken their hands. It's not until the two of them sit down to eat that everyone starts moving and finishing their meals.
"John? What is going on?" Rodney demands.
Rodney knows when to push and when not to push and this is one of those "not push" deals, but he does so anyway.
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Nope." He locks eyes with Rodney and says in a quiet voice. "No, Rodney. I'm not."
They haven't been together very long, and the boundaries of a relationship are different than the boundaries of friendship, but Rodney is learning.
"I won't drink all the coffee. I swear."
"The Sheppards didn't raise no stupid children. Like I believe that." John rolls his eyes, but as he says it, he pushes his knee against Rodney's knee in a rare gesture of affection.
Chapter End Notes:
This is part of the Do I or Don't I series, which has become, um, a series. Not that I planned this. It was to be a one-off, but these knuckleheads won't let me go. Just keep nudging me. Well, Rodney nudges--more of a poke--and John does goofy faces. The timeline of this series (in regards to Sgt. Bergdahl's release) is super this-doesn't-make-any-sense, but I ask that you roll with it. John needed to say this. Bowe Robert Bergdahl (born March 28, 1986) is a United States Army soldier who was held captive by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Afghanistan from June 2009 until his release in May 2014. The circumstances under which Bergdahl went missing and how he was captured by the Taliban have since become a subject of intense media scrutiny. Bergdahl was released on May 31, 2014, as part of a prisoner exchange for five Taliban members who were being held at the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. This exchange quickly became a political controversy within the United States.