Until We Meet One More
An excerpt from the short story by Josh Lanyon
Anchors Aweigh, my boys,
Anchors Aweigh. Farwell to foreign shores,
We sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay. Through our last night ashore,
Drink to the foam, Until we meet once more.
Here's wishing you a happy voyage home
"Anchors Aweigh" by Lt. Charles A. Zimmerman
Present day, 0001, Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan
“What we don't want,” Lt. Colonel Marsden said, “Is another Robert's Ridge.”
Army Ranger Captain Vic Black was thirty-two, a tall, broad-shouldered man with dark hair prematurely silver at the temples, and eyes a color a former lover had once referred to as “jungle green.” Those light green eyes studied his commanding officer as Marsden, his face lined with weariness, looked instinctively at the silent phone on his desk.
Vic understood only too well what Marsden was thinking. The parallels between this rescue operation and the disastrous Battle of Takur Gar -- commonly known as Robert's Ridge -- were painfully clear. In the Battle of Takur Gar the rescue of a Navy SEAL had resulted in two helicopters getting shot down and the deaths of seven U.S. Soldiers -- including the Navy SEAL, Petty Officer First Class Neil C. Roberts. Yeah, the last thing anyone wanted was another Robert's Ridge.
Marsden admitted, “I know what you're thinking, but we're in better position to get their man out even if they didn't have their hands full with Akhtar Shah Omar on the other side of the valley.”
“That's what we're here for,” Vic said woodenly. Well, it was one of the things the rangers were there for. Rapid response. Rescue. Whatever was needed. Like the SEALs, the Rangers were an elite special operations force, highly trained and able to handle a variety of conventional and special op missions -- everything from air assault to recovery of personnel or special equipment. This missing Navy SEAL seemed to qualify as both of the latter.
“No QRF. No TACP. No USAF. Just a three man rescue team carried in by a MH-47 Chinook and inserted at 0200 hours 1000 meters on the Arma mountain range.” Marsden pointed to a place on the map.
“Has there been any further communication from the surviving SEAL?” Vic asked, scrutinizing the map. Those impenetrable mountains were riddled with Taliban and al Qaeda fighters. Another enemy was the weather -- it was winter now -- and the brutal terrain. The Shah-i-Kot valley and surrounding mountains provided natural protection. For the last 2,000 years Afghan fighters had successfully resisted everyone from Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., to the British Army in 1800's to the Soviets in 1980.
“No,” Marsden replied. “But this is a valuable man with valuable intel. They -- we -- need him back.”
“That's what rangers do. Kick down the doors, take care of business, and bring the good guys home safe and sound.”
Marsden met Vic's gaze -- reading him correctly -- and grimaced. “I know, Vic. I know. He may be dead. But his IR strobe is still active and a Predator drone live video feed showed him on his feet and making for the landing zone as of two hours ago.”
“Good enough,” Vic said. And he did mean that. If there was a chance of getting that poor bastard off that fucking mountain in one piece, he was willing to try.
“If we're all very, very lucky, you'll be in and out before the enemy ever knows you dropped by.”
Vic nodded curtly. They would all certainly be very lucky if it went down like that. If he developed that kind of luck, he might take up betting on the ponies fulltime when he got back to the States next month. “Does this frogman have a name?” he inquired.
“Lt. Commander Sean Kennedy.”
The wallop was like…looking both ways only to get hit by a passing freight train.
“Sean Kennedy?” Vic repeated faintly.
“You know him?”
Marsden was staring at him, and no wonder. Vic's nickname wasn't “Stoney” for nothing. He managed to say evenly, “If it's the same man. Yeah. I knew him. A long time ago.”
“Sean Kennedy is a common enough name.” Marsden was still eyeing Vic curiously. “Well, it's a small world, and that's a fact. Good friend, was Kennedy?”
“Funny how things work out,” Marsden said, apparently in one of his philosophical moods. “Well, whether this Kennedy is your Kennedy or not, it looks like it's your job to bring him home. You deploy at oh one hundred hours.”
Copyright 2000-17, Josh Lanyon.
All rights reserved.