The following is a story I wrote on September 30, 2011, inspired by my watching of Band of Brothers and my morning reading of Proverbs 27:6a, which reads, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This work is copyright 2011 by inhonoredglory. No disrespect intended by use of real individuals. No copyright infringement intended through use of the HBO miniseries. Distribute with permission.
“Yeah, why’s that?”
“Because I follow Christ, and He never abandons His friends.”
I brushed away the dust from my rifle one more time. However we got on that topic, I didn’t know. I started off to the right, towards the rest of Easy Company. Lewis moved back towards the brushy path and followed me.
“So that’s what it means, then? You tail me?” I called over my shoulder.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Ron. It’s a life principle.”
“Hey, just trying to lighten up this war.” I swung the gun over my left shoulder, shaking my head. I swear, Lewis was worse than Lieutenant Winters. All that idealism. Really. I wished I were sucking a cigarette right now.
We continued on to the gathering of men. Everyone was trying to find their company. I saw a man from D wander around. Another was looking for Lieutenant Meehan. In fact, everyone was looking for Meehan.
Lewis tagged along and kind of meandered to the building where the NCOs were grouped. I figured he was eavesdropping.
“You just can’t wait, can you?” I jabbed, mentally puffing him a cloud of tobacco.
“For what?” His camouflage-smeared, wide-eyed face glared up at me.
“For the action to start. I hear you didn’t do Normandy.” I smirked. My veteran’s ego was getting a boost. I’d heard Lewis conked out after the jump last night, maybe hit his head on a tree or something, missed most of the action til finding the rest of us this morning. But from the general look of pity on his face, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s just hid out all night. I really didn’t know how he got through the rigors of Camp Toccoa.
“I just want to do my duty, is all,” he responded. Yeah, that was the typical answer from someone like him. Duty, faith, honor, church. I really needed a smoke.
The NCOs broke up, then, and called out a few names. Easy Company wandered into the farmhouse where Winters and the other major noncoms were having a powwow. Winters got us collected. “The 88s we’ve been hearing,” he said, “have been spotted in a field down the road a ways. Major Strayer wants to take ‘em out.”
So that’s how I found myself in a two-man squad with Lewis sneaking up to the gun placement. Winters had sent us to machine-gun their right side and draw fire in that direction. We shoved off. I saw Lewis jangle out his dog tags and kiss the little metal cross that hung on the same chain.
“I don’t believe in God,” I whispered, just to get his goat, which was admittedly a pretty dumb thing to do at this point in time.
He glared at me and snapped the tags back into his clothes. A twang of ricochetted bullets hit the air. The 88s went into action. Winters and Compton started shouting and moving men along the line. The gunfire had begun.
Blasts were falling all around us, kicking up the dirt and grass. Something got me in the thigh. I shouted a few choice curses and pounded myself into position behind a bushy outcropping. The wound was really almost nothing, but it sure made setting up the machine gun a royal pain. Lewis scrambled the ammunition into place. I manned the sights.
“Are you ready?” I shouted.
Bang! I let ‘em have it. I could see our other guys working up the 88’s sides. I aimed and sent my ammo flying.
“You okay?” Lewis shouted above the zing of shells.
“Yeah I’m okay!” I blasted back. I couldn’t feel the pain right now. Didn’t want to.
Our guys jumped the Germans on the 88. It was ours. “Move it, move it!” I shouted, and we scampered down the line around the trees towards the gun we’d just taken. Lewis helped me forward, almost dragging me. We bunched up into Toye and Wynn at the gun. The 88 was half surrounded by fortifications, the space under the gun strewn with dead Krauts.
“Hold this one,” Winters shouted, looking at Lewis and me, and threw us a German stick grenade. He jumped down the trench with a bunch of other guys towards the next gun. I set up the M2 on the edge of the fortification around the 88; Lewis jammed the grenade down the 88 and snapped the hook. “Fire in the hole!” he shouted and dived. I jumped down over him. A rocking boom and black dust. Suddenly I saw a figure on the other side of the smoke, opposite the wall. Overcoat, helmet – a Kraut. I scrambled for my pistol. Cock. Fire. It didn’t go. “Damn!” I hissed. Lewis jumped up from under me and shoved me aside, slamming me further behind the wide bottom of the 88. He leaned over to a dead German’s body and grabbed his Luger. Two shots banged out. Lewis’s body quivered and fell. His hands still up, he cocked the Luger. Bang! The German collapsed on Lewis. I scrambled. “Lewis!” I threw the Kraut off him. Three shots stained his abdomen. “You’re gonna be okay.” I scrambled for my aid kit.
“No, I’m not,” he said quietly. I could barely hear him in the gunfire afar off. Winters was taking the next gun.
“Man the M2,” he squeezed out through clenched teeth. I fumbled with the kit. “Go,” he hissed and brought his hand up to his neck and swung his tags over his head. He jabbed the tags toward me.
“You’re not dead yet, Lewis.” I shook him.
His eyes fell closed.
“Lewis!” I shouted.
A shot twanged above my head. I grabbed the M2 and sent a wave of fire at the third 88, cursing all the way. A minute later, I saw our guys rush into the third. Winters waved his hand over between numbers two and three. Compton gave a thumbs up from inside the last 88.
Everyone was cheering by the time I got back to HQ.
“That was amazing!” Faulkner from F Company shouted.
“Someone’s going to be up for a medal.”
Someone offered me a jug of cognac he’d snatched from town. I took it gratefully. Winters came around to thank us, then moved off towards the makeshift hospital ward. I didn’t feel like talking to Doc – or seeing him about my wound, so I went and found some corner alone. I took out Lewis’s dog tags and fingered the crossed metal dangling from the chain. Of course I didn’t like him, didn’t like his idealisms, didn’t like the noble way he always talked. But what was it in the end? It wasn’t pragmatics that was making him sing harps and tenor right now while I sat here drinking stale cognac.
I sighed and tapped the cross on my palm. Lewis was telling me something just a little while ago. It was something he’d read from that dinky Bible he’d gotten from his mother. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. Something in Proverbs, I think. Wasn’t everything?
I downed the last of the cognac and retreated to the farmhouse where Lewis, me, and a bunch of our company had set up camp. I plopped down and realized I was just left of Lewis’s things. Winters had told us to drop everything except ammunition when we went out. And there was his little Bible, resting so nicely, so obviously. Maybe too obviously? I jangled the cross in my hands.
“Sorry I gabbed about not believing in God,” I told his lifeless supplies. I could have made a big deal about his selflessness, but right now I figured that’s the last thing he’d wanted. I picked up his mother’s Bible. “Maybe I could make it up to you anyway.” The pages opened to something in John.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.