The Servant Soldier


Reed Morton, Writer

It was the fall of 1969 I sat in my desk looking out the window as my teacher wrote on the board rambling on about same old things. My friends looked at me pointing out the window at the local diner. I smiled and looked at the board what felt like a century came to pass as the bell rang. We walked outside and were hit in the face with the South Carolina humidity. It felt like hot bricks, it was 88 degrees, but it felt like 100. We watched as people were moving back and forth through the campus heading towards the exit like ants. A kid with a newspaper was passing out pens as lines of people read and looked at pictures of some unfamiliar place. Our boys were fighting in Vietnam. Some people say it just started while others argue that it has been going on for a while. I will soon be 18 and the draft is waiting for me like the defense waiting for the snap of the ball. I choose to focus on football and hopefully college. My name is Bill, but my friends call me Bo.

There is news about protests in Alabama and Mississippi, but I don’t know much beyond my hometown and surrounding cities. I know a dude who has been many places, but I haven’t seen or talked to him in a while. His name is Mac Johnson he was an adventurer for our small town he always had stories to tell, places to go, and people to see. I envy that because my feet feel rooted to this small town. I have history here and I have a future waiting for me.

“Bo you got a birthday comin around?” said Jack, “Aren’t ya going to be 18?” “Soon the draft will come for you too. It already got my two brothers.” Jack was the town know it all he kept in everyone’s business and shared all his. It did make me think. Would I be drafted or would college bail me out? Jack’s brothers took off for the war about 11 months ago he hasn’t heard from them since. The smell of the diner was calling me. The fried chicken drifted through the air like no one’s business. There are two types of people in town chicken or shrimp but the one thing everyone shares is fried. I’ve heard the food for the soldiers come in a pouch and heat up, quick. A far cry from our chicken and shrimp.

I have struggled with the thought of the draft and serving or running. I have history here, everything I know or have learned came from Kentsburg South Carolina. I was different than Mac he always found his way to the exit. I have a habit of sticking around far too long. My family has always lived here and Charlston. My family has owned a farm outside of town as far back as the Civil War when my great, great grand pappy moved here after serving in the war. He grew up in Atlanta but fled when Sherman came marching through. I come from people who do the right thing. Serving. I walked by the town hall and saw lists nailed to the door. There were names fillings every inch of the paper. In bright red letters on top, it said KIA. As I read it an older voice spoke up from behind me. It was an older man reading the same paper he looked at me and said, “Not today Sue our boys aren’t on the list.” I turned as I saw people who weren’t as lucky. I read through the list and a name stood out as I got to the bottom. “Mac Johnson KIA” I looked at it and said nothing stunted. He was up for adventure, and he was up for the task I was shocked that he was on this list.

I turned around and began to walk the long walk home. As I walked down the dirt path towards the farm, I saw the red sunset. I began to think about the list and the recruiters I saw at the town square. I thought of the helicopters playing Fortunate Son as they fly over a jungle. A pamphlet in my bag suddenly fell to the ground as I picked it up, I saw the picture of an American Soldier wearing green. The bold letters U.S Army rang in my head as I read through the lines on the bottom. As I ran towards my house, I thought about the words the recruiters said, “Uncle Sam needs you.” It hit me that I needed Uncle Sam as well. By the time I got to my porch the sun was setting, the sky turned red as I walked inside.

My parents were sitting in the living room staring at the TV. I placed the pamphlet given to me on the coffee table in front of them. My father looked at it and back at me and asked, “What is this?” I told them about Mac Johnson and my mother looked at my father. He nodded and said, “If you wanna go fight I won’t stop you just promise me you will win.” My father is a veteran from WWII just as my grandfather served in WWI. My mother stared at me not saying anything she just nodded not saying a word. Her eyes said enough, they both looked at me as my brother walked in the back door. He looked at the paper and immediately knew, he is too young to serve but his day will come. I then walked up stairs as it got dark, I knew what I was going to do now it was my turn to serve just as my fathers and grandfathers before me. The next morning, I woke up early and took my dad’s truck to town. I waited for the town hall to open and when I saw the recruiters in green walking up the steps, I met one and shook his hand asking, “where do I get the uniform of green?”