Sunday, July 5, 2015

"Freedom Isn't Free"

Blogging Friends.... It was Memorial Day 2015. Suddenly, I found myself--a writer, an artist who paints pictures with words--really feeling things. {Our brave military men and women's ultimate sacrifice. My love for America. Freedom.} I had a specific fictional story within my heart and soul that has already been speaking to me for several months. And, as I was feeling things on Memorial Day, I began writing this book. "Freedom Isn't Free" was loosely based on a certain fallen military serviceman. {My cousin's first boyfriend. Who we did not get to meet in person. Sadly.} I will never forget the complex thoughts, feelings and emotions that strummed me like an electric guitar after my cousin's boyfriend died. For America. To protect and keep alive our freedoms. For me. Wow. I will never forget how his death redefined me as a patriot. I was young. However. My cousin was even younger than I. I still have a private, handwritten, journal entry in which I expressed raw confused thoughts/feelings/emotions from twenty-year old me related to his death and the price of freedom. My cousin is now married {With two going on three!!} beautiful children!! This is a fictional story. Love you later.

"Freedom Isn't Free"

Life. There are times when it feels as though everything is going even better than you could have possibly planned, hoped or dreamed. Young eighteen-year old Johonna was attending college--miles and miles and miles away from home--in beautiful, rainy, green Oregon. Like any student? Johonna studied hard, attended classes, and tried to figure out where her place was in this big, big, big world. Like any student? Johonna possessed dreams and ambitions. Like any student? Johonna met a handsome twenty-year old brown-eyed brunette-haired guy--named Timothy--and swiftly fell in love. They attended classes together. In between making out with each other? Johonna and Timothy did homework together--every single night--at his apartment. But they also found the time to partake in some fun actives!! Like walk through Oregon Zoo--hand in hand--and be entertained by caged wild animals. Or hike around Timberline Lodge to witness an amazingly beautiful close-up view of a snow-covered Mt. Hood. Like shop at Powell's Books and score themselves some literary treasures. Or walk Cannon Beach--hand in hand--where Johonna and Timothy can literally deploy each one of their five senses. Like see the Pacific Ocean's waves as they repeatedly roll in and out, in and out, in and out. Hear multiple seagulls' high-pitched cries. Touch gritty wet sand between their barefoot toes. Smell countless fishy scents. Or taste sweet saltwater taffy.

 Yes, Johonna and Timothy were definitely in love!! Those with a keen sense of observation would even say head-over-heels!! Aside from attending college courses, Timothy also dutifully served in the United States Army. He was a helicopter pilot. Which, of course, Johonna very well knew about!! In fact, she found Timothy's short buzzed military hairdo and respectful mannerisms quite attractive!! Plus Johonna thought he looked very handsome while wearing his Army uniform!! But then--just like that--Timothy was called to serve in Iraq. He had already been deployed overseas before. Timothy was once called to serve in Afghanistan. He had left home for several months on end. But this was the very first time that Timothy would be leaving behind a lover. For six months to one year or even longer.

"Oh, Timmy...." said Johonna right before his deployment, "Iraq....?! That is so far away from the Pacific Northwest!! Or home...."

"Yes, ma'am," said Timothy, "It is."

"Oh Timmy...." said Johonna, "I know that Iraq is an entire country away. And in a completely different time zone. But.... It will feel as though you are on Saturn in outer space or something!!"

"An entire planet away?!" said Timothy.

"Yes!!" said Johonna.

"You know what, darlin'?" said Timothy, "That is a really accurate comparison!! Yes, I'll be an entire country away. But it will--I wholeheartedly agree!!--feel like we're a planet apart from each other!!"

Later, as Timothy was about to be deployed, the two young lovers said their goodbyes.
"Here are my addresses...." said Johonna, as she blinked back wet hot tears, "This one is from the dorm.... Alright....? And this address is from home.... You know, for when I am visiting family....? Promise me you'll write during your spare time....?"

"Yes, ma'am, I will!!" said Timothy, "I promise!! And you'll write me, too? Receiving your hand-written letters will be the highlight of my day, darlin'!! You know that, right?"

"Of course I do, Timmy...." said Johonna, "And I will write you every single day...."

She wiped a stubborn, wet, hot, tear away from her left eye.

"What about your address, Timmy....?" Johonna  said, "I am going to need it, too...."

Timothy laughed.

"Oh, yeah!!" he said, "In all the emotion of my deployment to Iraq, I almost forgot!! Silly, crazy, stupid me!! Well, here is my address!!"

Suddenly, it was time for Timothy to leave.

"I...." he said, while blinking back wet hot tears, yet trying so hard to be a brave military serviceman, "I.... I need to go--duty calls--I love you, darlin'.... I truly do.... I know I'm leaving.... Oh, it feels like I am abandoning you...."

Johonna smiled weakly.

"I know you love me.... Without a doubt in my mind...." she said, "I will think about you every single day...."

Then Timothy and Johonna's lips locked in a long, passionate, emotional kiss. This was officially it. Goodbye. Suddenly, uncontrollable, wet, hot, tears streamed down Johonna's cheeks like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"I love you, darlin'!!" Timothy called out after walking away to join his unit, "I love you!! I love you!! I love you!!"

Johonna could practically feel her heart breaking at their departure.

"I love you, too!!" she called out.

I have homework, thought Johonna that afternoon after she returned back to her dormitory room, Boo!! I am not in the mood to do homework right now. It can wait!! I need to write Timmy....

So Johonna pulled out some nice stationery paper and red gel pens from a desk. Then she wrote her very first letter....

Dear Timmy,

As I write this, you have only been gone for a few long hours. Your unit no doubt has not even landed in Iraq yet!! But I already miss you.... So badly!! As usual, I have homework to do for tomorrow's college classes. But you and I always studied together!! I miss my lover, best friend and homework buddy!! I want so badly to kiss you right now!! It always helps considerably with the homework process!! ;o}

I hope this letter finds you as well as can be expected in a war-torn country. I guess I should go and do my homework. I have run out of things to write about, anyway. ;o)

Love, Johonna

She slipped Timothy's letter into an envelope, wrote his address, sealed and stamped it. Johonna then reluctantly did homework. All alone. As she walked toward her classes the next morning, Johonna dropped Timothy's letter into a tall blue mailbox.

"There," she whispered to herself, "It is gone...."

In Iraq, Timothy received Johonna's letter. A huge smile spread across his face.

"Yes!!" Timothy said to himself, "It is my first letter from Jo-Jo!! Man, she's fast!! I have not even been in Iraq for very long yet!!"

As soon as Timothy was allowed some downtime from his duties of flying helicopters, bombing enemy villages and fighting the war, he replied her letter....

Dear Jo-Jo,

How is Life on planet Earth? ;D

So you are keeping busy with college classes, huh? How has work been? I miss your cheeseburgers that you make me at Red Robin!! They're fat, juicy and well-done just as I like them!! As a matter of fact.... I am craving one right now as these words are being written!! I also miss your French fries that you make me. They are thick cut, greasy and salty just as I like them!! Can you hear my stomach growling?! The food that our unit eats over here is not nearly as delicious as your cheeseburgers and French fries.... ;D

Are you making any new friends? Whether at school or at work? You are such a nice person, darlin', that anyone would want to your friend!! ;)

Life on planet Saturn is not so great. Being sent to a war-ravaged country.... It's the hardest part about serving as an Army helicopter pilot. Ask anybody who has ever been deployed overseas. They would agree. We see, experience and do things that are beyond words indescribable. War is truly hell. :(

Well, I should close this and try to catch some much-needed sleep. ;)

I miss my beautiful Earthling real bad. :(

Love, Timothy

He slipped Johonna's letter into an envelope, wrote her address, sealed, stamped and mailed it. Then Timothy fell fast asleep. For he was both physically and emotionally exhausted.

In Oregon, Johonna received Timothy's letter. A huge smile spread across her face.

"It is from Timmy!!" she exclaimed before ripping open the envelope and reading his letter.

Are you making any new friends? Whether at school or at work? You are such a nice person, darlin', that anyone would want to your friend!!

Those sweet, encouraging, handwritten words from Timothy ran around and around and around in Johonna's heart.

He is right, she thought, I do need to make new friends!! I mean.... Before being deployed to Iraq, Timmy was the only person I knew or spent any time with around here. But now I am all alone....
During lunch break at Red Robin, Johonna walked up to a co-worker--named Trenton--and boldly sat across the table from him.

"Hi!!" she said, "Can I sit across from you? My name is Johonna!!"

Trenton looked up from his meal of fried, crispy, breaded chicken strips and fat onion rings.

"Sure!!" he said, "I am Trenton!!" 

As Johonna ate her fat, juicy, well-done cheeseburger and thick cut, greasy, salty French fries, she told Trenton all about Timothy.

He smiled.

"I have a cousin--her name is Katharina--who serves in the Marine Corps," he said, "She has been deployed overseas multiple times now.... To Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Iraq.... So in a way, I understand."

"How is Katharina doing?" asked Johonna.

"She's alright," said Trenton, "Katharina is happily married to her husband, Mason. They have five small kids. Three-year old quintuplets, actually!! Katharina is currently serving in Iraq."

"Three-year old quintuplets?!" said Johonna, "Wow.... I imagine that they miss their Mama real bad!!"

"Yeah...." said Trenton, "They do. But I help watch my nieces and nephews whenever I'm available while their Daddy is at work."

"Whoa!!" exclaimed Johonna, "That sounds like a lot of work!!"

"Oh, it is," said Trenton, "But they are good kids!!"

"I would like to be a Mama someday," said Johonna, "I love children!!"

"Hey, I am watching my nieces and nephews on Saturday," said Trenton, "How about the seven of us drive up to Multnomah Falls?"

"That sounds like fun!!" said Johonna, "I have never been to Multnomah Falls before!!"

"Really?!" said Trenton, a shocked tone in his voice, "You have never been to Multnomah Falls?!"

"Hey, give me a break!!" smiled Johonna, "I am not from Oregon!! I'm just here to attend college!!"

"Oh," said Trenton, "Sorry!! I was born and raised in Oregon!!"

That conversation took place on Friday. So the next morning, Trenton--with his nieces and nephews, of course--picked up Johonna from her dormitory room to drive toward Multnomah Falls!!

"Hey there!!" said Trenton, "These are my nieces and nephews."

Trenton pointed to each child as he introduced their names.

"This is Annie. Adam. Angel. Andrew. And that is Abby. Say hello, kids!!"

"Hi," they all said in unison.

"Hey Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby," said Johonna.

She enjoyed herself to immense capacities at Multnomah Falls!! Johonna even voluntarily helped out with Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby. She got to know Trenton. Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby even felt very, very, very comfortable around Johonna!! Back at the dormitory room that evening, she sat down to write her lover a postcard from Multnomah Falls....

Dear Timmy,

In your last letter, you suggested that I make some new friends. Remember? Well, I have made--not one--but six new friends!! I sat across from a guy--named Trenton--at work during lunch break on Friday. We talked about Life {That would be you serving in Iraq} and we immediately hit it off!! Trenton watched his adorable quintuplet nieces and nephews on Saturday. As a last minute plan, we all drove up to Multnomah Falls that very morning!! Oh, babe.... That waterfall!! It is breathtakingly beautiful!! I have never--ever--seen such a mighty waterfall!! The closer you walk toward Multnomah Falls? It sprays your face!! We even treated Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby {The quintuplets} to some delicious soft-serve chocolate swirl ice cream!! Yum!! We should definitely drive up to Multnomah Falls when you return from Iraq!! ;oD

Love, Johonna

She addressed the postcard, and stuck a stamp on it. The next morning? Johonna dropped it into a tall blue mailbox.

Then she waited. Waited. And waited some more for Timothy's reply. But no letter arrived in the mail. Johonna began to fret.

Where are you, Timmy? she thought, I know that I should not be sitting here worrying.... But I cannot help it!! Where are you, Timmy?

And no letter ever did arrive in the mail.

Because overseas, Timothy's helicopter--which also carried three other soldiers named Donald, Amos and Lori--was shot down during a battle.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!!" he screamed into his dispatcher, "Mayday, mayday!! We are going down, sir!!"

Timothy's vocal chords and lungs then let out a blood-curdling scream so loud that it could have been heard all over the world. For this attack was beyond his {Or anybody's} control. And then his helicopter hit the ground in an explosive crash. Neither Donald, Amos, Lori--or Timothy--survived.

"I know that we are all very busy and this damn war does not allow us much time for anything but fighting battles...." said Jessica, the highest ranking soldier in their unit.

Trying so hard to be a brave military servicewoman, she blinked back stubborn, wet, hot, tears.

"But let's all gather together...." continued Jessica, "To have.... A respectful moment of silence in honor of Timothy, Donald, Amos and Lori."

So they did.... While, of course, heartbroken and grief-stricken, yet brave.

In Oregon, Johonna finally received word about Timothy. But it was not at all what she had been expecting. Johonna received word about her lover in a telephone call from his Dad, Louis.

She could somehow sense that he was crying.

"Tim...." Louis began, "Has been.... Killed. He is.... Dead...."

"Oh no, no, no!!" screamed Johonna, tears filling her eyes, "I could somehow sense when Timmy did not reply my postcard that something was terribly wrong.... But, of course, I did not want to believe it.... Oh no, no, no.... Are you sure it is Timmy and not some other soldier....?"

"Yes...." said Louis, "We...."

He paused to regain his composure.

"We have actual proof that Tim is.... Dead.... His helicopter was shot down.... On March 23rd...." Louis finished.

"Oh my gosh...." was all Johonna could say.

She hung up the telephone. Once again, uncontrollable, wet, hot, tears streamed down her cheeks like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

If watching Timmy being deployed broke my heart into a billion pieces.... thought Johonna, Then this.... This has exploded my heart....

After several negative, complex, thoughts, feelings and emotions seared through Johonna, the next morning, she sent Trenton a vague, brief, desperate text....

Can you come over to my dorm.... Please.... I need you.

Johonna clicked "send".

Trenton immediately replied her text....

What happened?! I have a shift today at Red Robin, but I'll call in sick. I will be right over.

Trenton clicked "send".

Thank-you.... was all Johonna could reply....

She clicked "send".

When Trenton arrived, Johonna told him the sad tragic news. Her eyes were bloodshot. Tears had stained Johonna's shirt.

"Timmy was the one...." she said, "My lover.... Soul mate.... Best friend.... Oh, Trenton.... Timmy was far more than my boyfriend.... He...."

Johonna paused to regain her composure.

"He was my future husband.... I just knew it...." she finished.

Trenton embraced Johonna and let her cry on his shoulders.

"I am so sorry...." he began, "This news hits close to home for me.... Because that is our worst nightmare concerning Katharina. But you.... You're hurting, grieving, missing a lover that you'll never, ever see again. So go ahead. Cry. Shout out in anger. Go through every single stage of grief. That is natural and completely normal. I will be there for you every step of the way. I promise."

"Thank-you, Trenton...." Johonna whispered.

At Timothy's memorial service, she cringed when his American flag draped casket was carried by fellow Army servicemen. Johonna's heart skipped a beat along with each and every shot of the twenty-one gun salute. She felt chills literally shoot through her body when Taps was played. Wet hot tears trickled down Johonna's cheeks as Timothy's parents were handed the neatly folded up American flag and military honors. For this was officially it. Timothy is dead.

"Johonna...." his tearful Mom, Florence, said as she handed her a folded up unfinished letter, "This is for you...."

"It's a letter from Timmy...." gasped Johonna, as she blinked back wet hot tears, "I was waiting for this...."

Back at her dormitory--with Trenton visiting for moral support--she slowly unfolded Timothy's letter....

Dear Jo-Jo,

Freedom isn't free.