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Silent Barrage 1951
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 by Frank Shortt
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        Freezing temperatures persisted as Christmas approached. He had not seen another human being for several days. He remembered the baked ham, the turkey with stuffing and giblet gravy. How good a baked yam would taste. For that matter, how great any food would taste!
        Allied forces had bombarded the hillside for days thinking they were shelling the enemy. Since the First World War this has been referred to as ‘friendly fire’! The men who had occupied the hillside were part of the 50th Signal Service Detachment.
        Grim silence pervaded the lonely, smoking hillside. Heavy artillery had left the terrain bereft of vegetation. A lone survivor had miraculously escaped death for the moment.
        His mind, ablaze with confusion, he asked, “Why am I here. Where are all my buddies?”
        No birds sang! Not an insect buzzed! His raspy breathing was all that was audible. His blood, oozing from a wounded side sounded to his blurry mind like a stream of gurgling water.
        The man’s thoughts suddenly meandered back to his childhood. The boy lazed beside still waters where he had cast in his line. He loathed the thought of getting a nibble. Why this sudden barrage of memories? He thought. His parents were separating leaving the lad with a huge void and much consternation in his life.
        How will I ever survive?
        There, on a barren hillside in Korea, he fought to justify his father’s decision. He struggled to justify his mother’s actions. He bravely justified America. He resolved to justify why he was there. Sliding deeper into unconsciousness he somehow realized the importance of relationships….. The man saw himself… as an ant.
        Ants crawled upon this denuded hillside. Ants were the only other living thing. Had they been deep enough in the ground to avoid being destroyed by the barrage? The heat of the shelling had somehow released them.
        Are these ants rising around me or the silent all-encroaching enemy?
        What a Christmas he must have had as the angels welcomed him home