My troops had been with me for several weeks. I met them out in New Mexico in April 2004 and immediately took them under my wing. A couple of stragglers came later in May. They were a fairly young bunch but not full of piss and vinegar. They were tough. Most were made of Stone and some were well seasoned, others were not. Some would need a little aging to meet their full potential and I was the man to do it.
<P>They truly seemed anxious to join my little group. They knew I would care for them, nurture them, and provide them with a new home. Their new home was more comfortable than where they were previously. At their old homes, some were gawked at, made fun of, others were left in the cold. I had a challenge on my hands but like I said, I was the man to do it.
<P>The night before our mission I called them to attention. Most of the group was about the same size but I had them line up according to height anyway. They were all well-built, too, like any good soldier but some were a little lighter, like maybe 10 ounces lighter. I gave them their orders and each man was more than ready for the task at hand. Each one knew where they were headed and of the rewards for this being a successful mission. However, this could turn into a disaster quickly but I knew they were ready.
<P>I took each one into my hands that night and carefully wrapped them in protective covering. The younger ones seemed nervous but I reassured them that everything was going to be okay. One of the younger kids had practically just been born- April 4th, 2004 said his birth certificate- but he and his twin brother stood Vertical and were prepared for this Epic battle. A couple of the older guys had just celebrated their 6th Anniversary. I told them I had been down this road before. I had battled the Delta Force before and I had won. I had a huge group of Belgian troops on my last assignment and we all came home. No man was left behind. Some of those damn Belgians were huge, even bigger than the 22 ouncers that I currently had. Others had escaped Westvleteren and Rochefort and had fought their way north before joining me and my team. In retrospect, those 750’s may have been better able to weather the storm due to their sheer size. This time around there weren’t any Belgians but I did have a New Belgian.
<P>So with all the skill of an Air Force or Navy Parachute Rigger, I packed each one neatly into what would be his home for the next several hours. Little did I know that for some of them, this would be their final resting place. When all were packed in I prepared to close the door on their Troop Transport. As I was closing the door, some Arrogant Bastard yelled out, “Who’s in charge in here?” He caught me by surprise as I hadn’t really thought about it. Sure, some of the guys were young but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of leading. Some of them were older but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are capable either. So I thought about it for a second and said, “The Old Guardian is in charge. We are heading into hell tomorrow, guys. Let’s get a good night’s sleep. Good night.”
<P>I awoke at 0430, took a quick shower, and prepared the transportation to the air field. “The troops are in good spirits,” I said to myself. We arrived at the air field and prepared for battle. I was forced to hand over my troops to the evil Delta Force. I gave them right to the fucking enemy! How could I be so stupid? “It will be okay,” I thought. I asked the Delta Force ground commander to be respectful so he placed a “fragile” sticker on the troop transport.
<P>We fought like hell for 3 hours. My troops were away from me and I could only think positively, not knowing of their ordeal below. After 3 hours, the battle was over. My troops and I were going to be reunited. Unfortunately, I smelled them before I actually saw them. They must have fought like hell. Other troop transports coming down the ramp looked like they had some of my troops’ bodily fluids on them. It must have been pure hell down there in the trenches. I expected the worst and I was ready to deal with whatever I faced. As I took the troop transport off of the carousel, fluid dripped. The sweet, pungent smell of hops filled the air. My eyes were filling with tears for I had lost some of my men. How bad was the damage? How many had I lost? I could not stand there and open the troop carrier and let others see the carnage. I had to get out, out into the open air and see the damage by myself.
<P>I wheeled the transport through the air field terminal as bits of life dripped down onto the floor. I made my way outside to a parking lot where our bus was waiting for us. There was no big parade or anything. There were no cameras, no media coverage; after all, this was a secret mission. No one would know of these heroes and the fight of their lives. As I wheeled them over towards the bus, I opened the door on the troop transport to survey the damage. One, two, three, four men down. Their lifeless bodies just lying there- lifeless. The Old Guardian was gone. The New Belgian gone. A 6th Anniversary gone. An 040404 gone although his twin made it home. It was almost too much for me to handle but we had made it home. The Durango could not be Derailed. The Arrogant Bastard was safe. A couple of 6th Anniversaries could now stand beside their 7th Anniversary brothers. Two guys with Left Hands made it. A weird “Patriot, Brewer” chocolate concoction made it. Welcome home men. You fought valiantly. To the rest of you now buried in Atlanta, you will be missed. May you rest in pieces.