honor hill

The march dragged on. We ascended and descended paved hills of the famous historic Georgian terrain. I carried a rucksack, a rifle slung around my neck and on rotation either 2 ammo boxes or a 5 gallon water canister. We left right at sundown and would not be finished until well into the middle of the night. Sweat dripped down my face as I switched the 5 gallon canister from one hand to the other. Our leaders followed slowly close behind in white pickup trucks, their headlights piercing us as they edged along. Something was troubling my mind during this march. A conversation I had. But in a way it provided a deep agitation, almost a defiance that was fueling my energy for the march. About ten days prior when we had been on our 4 day family pass I bought a pair of headphones at the local Barnes N Nobel. Instead of throwing these away, at the end of our pass I put the headphones on a shelf in my locker in plain view. These could never be used for anything sitting in my locker as our phones were taken from us immediately after the 4 day pass. The next day there was a surprise locker inspection where our leaders searched every locker in the barracks. My headphones were found and turned in and I was told I would be written up and that I would have to do extra duty for the next 2 weeks every day starting after dinner until 9pm which was the time we all went to bed. This wasn’t the worst part however. Skip ahead 10 days right before our final march, our final test if you will. My friend walked over to me. “Estrada, I heard that anyone who got written up isn’t going to Honor Hill.” “Are you sure?” I said. “It’s looking that way. Sorry man.” He responded. There was genuine distress in his voice. So on top of the stress of this physically exhausting final march I would be thinking about these words from my friend the entire time. Please God, please allow me to go to Honor Hill I prayed. We marched on, sweating, groaning, talking to ourselves, talking to each other trying to find any motivation we could. “Estrada, hand off the water container” a platoon member said to me. “No, I’m good” I said with a blank stare. “Estrada you are one hard mother fucker” he said in response. In what seemed like a very very long time we finally could see the barracks. Our home for 15 weeks. When we arrived we dropped off our gear inside the barracks and headed downstairs to wait for our leaders in formation.
Our platoon’s leader walked to our formation preparing to take us to Honor Hill. I stood among my platoon hoping that what I heard was not true and that I would go with them to celebrate the end of our suffering. He looked at me and gave a strange smile. Then he told me to leave the formation and go sit with another group which was right outside the building. I sat there holding my metal cup holder which I would not use for the Honor Hill Ceremony. As I sat there, my leader walked up to our group and said “I need a cup holder.” His eyes rested on me. “201 give me your cup holder.” I handed it to him and did not look him in the eye. I walked back to where I was and sat down on the pavement with the other 20 or so men. I looked around and the men were silent. Some stared straight ahead and others looked down at the pavement. After looking at the men, I too stared down at the pavement. I was ashamed. I thought about everything we had done to get to this day. And I was not with my platoon. I was sitting on the pavement while a leader stood there watching our group with a solemn look on his face. When I finally was able to shower I stood there washing myself with a blank stare. The next morning as I sat next to my bunk cleaning my rifle my leader walked by me and in passing said “fix your boot display Estrada.” I looked over as he left our barracks. I slowly moved over to where my boots lay.

Leave a Comment: