Karlene Jacobsen has spent years dreaming of a fictional world with her husband and four children as her greatest cheerleaders. When not involved in her fictional world, she studies English/Communications at Grand Canyon University (distance/online), volunteers at church, reviews books and films, contributes to Jewels of Encouragement www.jewelsofencouragement.com (devotions), enjoys her membership with Faith Writers and ACFW and actively participates in her critique group, led by Literary Agent Linda Glaz while working on her first novel. In the midst of this, she makes her online home Dancin’ in the Rain… (www.anna-karlene-jeffrey.blogspot.com) a place where anyone can find encouragement.
He stood; a man—yet a boy—ready as any eager youth to join the fray of battle, defending his country and ideals. To his right and left others flanked him, chanting, “To the end, we’ll never bend.”
Like a thousand volts of electricity, energy ran through his body, intensifying with each repetition. It mattered little that his station held him squarely in the center of the sun’s scorching rays. Nor did it bother him to know that once training was complete, he would brave the untamed land surrounding him.
From the corner of his eye he noted his commander approaching. Quick check: body straight, shoulders back, chin parallel to the ground, eyes forward. It was an honor to serve in this Commander’s army—the most notorious known to history. Soon, he was there, toe-to-toe, eye to eye. The intensity of the Commander’s gaze electrified the soldier to greater degrees than he thought possible. “Soldier, this will not be easy.”
“Sir. No, sir.”
“This could kill you.”
Death? He didn’t like that word. Who did? His heart tripped over his lungs. “Sir. Yes, sir.”
Soldier’s weapon slipped as his arms tired in their position. He fought to maintain his stance; his muscles quivered and quaked inside his uniform. Prayers sped through his mind, Please, God, don’t let me fail now. Beads of sweat gathered around the inside of his helmet, waiting for the opportune time to splash over his goggles and blur his vision.
“Sir. I will fight, sir.”
The Commander scanned Soldier’s appearance.
Soldier ran through the checklist silently: Belt—check. Boots—check. Weapon—check. Helmet—check. What am I forgetting?
Commander stepped back a pace or two. Looked right—then left. “I will be with you always. Don’t forget.” He pointed to the radios each soldier possessed. “Never forget.”
Right. Always with me. Don’t forget. Don’t forget. There was much to remember. Soldier comforted himself. Commander would send him with his comrades. They’ll help one another along. None will be left to himself. Ever. They were a unit now. Right?
Together they marched. Taking the land given to them would end in victory. Commander promised it. “You’ll never regret fighting to the finish. Stand your ground until you see me coming with relief.”
“Sir. Yes, sir.” Each soldier acknowledged Commander’s direction. Soldier wondered whether he was the only one turning to jelly inside.
On the field, battles raged. Soldier won, grew in confidence and strength. What was I afraid of? They run from my weapons. He laughed with his comrades when back at camp. Nothing would stop him.
Until his buddy to the left fell, a fatal wound to the chest. Then on his right—amputation by mortar fire.
His radio crackled to life. “Remember, Soldier. I’m here. Don’t quit. Fight.”
“Sir. Right, sir.”
“Stand your ground.”
“Sir. Yes, sir.” He stood. Holding his weapon at the ready. Helmet secure. This was no time to entertain fear.
Firing ceased. “Soldier. This is not the time. Stand alert.”
How Commander knew Soldier had thought to relax, Soldier didn’t know. “Sir. Yes, sir.”
The sun’s heat burned through Soldier’s helmet. Sweat poured from his face into his uniform. He waited.
Minutes blurred into hours. Hours ticked into days. Days flipped weeks into months. Soldier stood. Winds blew through his uniform. Frostbite threatened to steal his fingers. He remained steadfast, waiting for Commander’s release.
Voices echoed from behind him. “Soldier, stand down. It’s over. Can’t you see? It’s peace time. No one’s firing on us.”
“He sent us.”
“No, I’ll wait for Him.”
They mocked him. Soon he knew there was no one to trust. None would stand with him. But he stood, ready.
Rains fell. His weapon slipped. He readjusted his grip.
“Hold your ground, Soldier. Don’t quit when you’re so close.”
It had been a while since hearing Commander’s voice. How’d he know I thought of sitting; let someone else fight awhile? He said I’m close, though, right? “Sir. Yes, sir.”
Alone he would fight. Commander would soon come and rescue him. Bullets whistled past his face once again. He stood. Ready. Night fell. The land, lit by the moon, shone with silver halos over the horizon.
Soon. A breath of hope filled his lungs. The war would end. In that moment he could lay down his weapon. Until then, he must stand and fight.