I never considered myself as a military man. but then again, I never considered myself to be any sort of man, yet there I was. A scrawny adolescent barely past 18 with low self-esteem on a boat shipped out of my home. Don't get me wrong, I was no mama's boy or anything, but I was not athletic at all. I hated the outdoors, I was in poor shape, and I complained a lot to the point that my few buddies always compared me to women. So what in the heck was I doing in the military? It was quite simply really. My parents were poor and my grades were really bad that I couldn't qualify for any scholarship. My options were limited, and I was desperate to get out of my boring town. That may have seemed typical for a young guy like me, but it really was necessary.
My home life was absolute crap. My parents were poor as I've mentioned, and as such they took that fact pretty hard. My father was an alcoholic, (how he managed to save enough money to buy booze was beyond me), and my mother often lived in her own bubble. Suffice to say, I had a tough childhood. With both of my parents messed up and no other family nearby, I felt alone and abandoned. I often blamed God for giving me such a crappy life, but that never did any good. In fact, I just felt bad afterwards. Well, when graduation came and the lack of money truly slapped me across the face, I was forced to join the military.
In present times, I was on the dreadful boat going to some godforsaken land to do my mandatory service. I just hoped that the two years go by quickly so I could just go to college and live my own life. I was tired of being poor and I refused to ever live that way again if I could help it.
I was pulled from my depressing thoughts by the other rookies standing at attention. On deck was the infamous Captain Steven Taylor. He was a well respected war veteran and everyone treated him like a hero. I snorted. Pfft, so he won a couple of purple hearts, big deal.
Captain Taylor walked down the row of new recruits. He didn't say anything, but he merely looked at each face. My body started to ache from standing at attention for so long. Jeesh, would he hurry the hell up!
After would seemed to have been an eternity, the veteran finally reached me. As he looked into my eyes, I was surprised by the gentle look on his face. This man killed who knew how many people for his country, yet there he was looking at me like a man regarding his son with pride. That just downright freaked me out. This man could have probably killed me right then and there and I wouldn't have even seen it.
I inwardly slapped myself to resume my focus. I was starting to get tired of being under such an intense stare, but thankfully Captain Taylor gave a small smile and nodded. "Welcome to the force, Private Jones." he said with his rich tone. Man, even just by saying a simple comment made him seem perfect. Too perfect, I thought with certain distrust.
Of course, outwardly I nodded in return and the Captain marched on to his post. Thank God; another moment and I could have been the next David.
A few days have passed since the momentary encounter with Captain Taylor. Man, even when he personally wasn't around, there was always some mention of him. It didn't help that the other recruits wouldn't shut up about him. They were practically worshipping him. I rolled my eyes at their fan boy-like behavior. Dumbasses, I thought.
I tuned out the morons and focused on my station. I was assigned to keep the water pipes in prime condition. About an hour passed when a messenger came running to me and said that Captain Taylor wanted an audience with me. The stubby boy then turned around and ran off.
To say that I was confused would have been an understatement. What could the Captain have possibly wanted with me? Needless to say, I was curious.
To satisfy my curiosity, I left my work station and walked across the long boat towards the Captain's quarters. As I stood outside the door, a swarm of butterflies started to fly around my stomach. I pushed aside the discomfort and knocked.
Immediately, the Captain granted me permission to come in. I did so, and couldn't help but envy the luxury that was hidden in the quarters. So a fantastic reputation wasn't enough, he also needed a nice room with 5-star hotel accommodations? Lucky bastard, I thought grudgingly.
Thankfully, my facial expression remained neutral as I walked over to the Captain and sat down when he gestured me to do so. Seemingly out of nature, Captain Taylor regarded me yet again with those piercing hazel eyes of his. I felt like an amoeba being studied under a microscope. I coughed. "You wanted to see me sir?"
My person of interest nodded. "Yes, I wanted to speak with you." He then leaned forward. "I had a look at your file; it's quite average."
Well, that was a blunt statement.
"It's average, yet that's not what your true capabilities are." he continued. "You've got potential, Private Jones. What are you doing wasting your time here when you could be off starting your life?"
I merely blinked as I processed his question. Why did he care about what I did with my life or not?
Regardless of that, I replied. "I plan on doing just that once I complete my mandatory two years. I need the money that comes with my service."
A curious expression came upon Captain Taylor's face. "Why is that? Are you having financial problems?" he asked.
My eyes narrowed as the Captain ventured into forbidden territory. "With all due respect sir, but my reasons for joining the military shouldn't be any of your concerns." I remarked as calmly as I could.
That seemed to have snapped the older man out of whatever influence he was under. He pressed his back flat against his chair and a slight flush crept over his face. "You're right, I'm sorry for asking such a question when it wasn't in my position to do so. It's just that I'm curious about you. You're different than the other recruits."
I raised an eyebrow. "You mean the fact that I joined the military not because I wanted to bring honor to my family then yeah, I suppose that does make me different."
"You've got a big mouth, I see." Captain Taylor replied. "When I said that you were different than the others, I meant that you've got a hidden drive within you that I haven't seen in anyone else for quite some time. You grew up in a poor environment, it obviously affect your school experience, yet you still want to strive for more. You want to live a better life than what you started with. Anyone else would have preferred to give up rather than make a huge commitment and join the military, but not you. You want a better life, and you're doing all that you can to ensure you get one."
I was stunned as I took in what he said. I was practically commended by THE Captain Steven Taylor, yet I probably had my mouth open like an idiot. I found that I couldn't even properly form words.
A look of understanding passed through the Captain's features as he smiled at me. "Dismissed." He simply said.
All too eagerly, I shot out of my seat and bolted out the door.
About twenty years have passed since I completed my service. Most of the details were a blur, but I always kept in mind what Captain Taylor told me all those years ago. It turned out that he was right; I did have a drive that even I didn't know about. I was just thankful that someone else pointed out the potential I had.
I haven't spoken with Captain Taylor since he called me into his quarters that day, but I still kept tabs on him through the media. When the day he died of a stroke came, I felt a small part of myself die. Taylor was a good man, and I was mighty proud that I had the chance to serve with him.
I went to Captain Taylor's funeral; of course, it was packed with hundreds of people wanting the chance to say goodbye to the very symbol of patriotism for our country. It was even filmed briefly so that the whole nation could partake in the special event.
Once the service was over and most of the guests has left, I stayed behind for one last chance of a "private" conversation. Well, more like a monologue.
"Hey Captain," I started softly. "It's been a while since we've last talked. I'd love to tell you all that has happened to me the last two decades, but I'm sure the details would just bore you." I paused as an unexpected surge of emotion swelled in my chest. I gritted my teeth in an attempt to suppress the build-up. It calmed down, to my relief, and I took a deep breath to steady myself. "I just wanted to say thank you for snapping me out of my self-pity. I was probably heading down a road of self-destruction, but you stepped in and rose me up. I wouldn't be where I am now without you." I then gently placed a gloved-hand over the tombstone. "Rest well, Captain." I quietly said.
With that, I made my way out of the snow-covered graveyard towards the large cathedral. Seemingly blessed, a few rays of sunlight managed to break through the thick winter clouds and shined a path in front of me. A small smile came across my face as I picked up my pace with enthusiasm.