Years and years ago I discovered my love of warrior stories. I started reading and watching every warrior story I could get my hands on. I look for moments of strong men standing for what is right, realizing that being a warrior isn’t a bad thing if you’re using it for the right thing. I look for “between” moments when the warrior stands between something evil and the one they love. I look for brotherhood moments.
In the middle of reading a book about WW2 fathers and their Vietnam sons, I came across a scene involving a downed helicopter and a soldier who stood on it to hold off the Vietcong while the other soldiers boarded a rescuing helicopter. The moment blazed with courage. I told one of my dear readers, Deanna, I wanted to write Historical-Fiction short stories about these heroic sacrifices and battles.
A great idea, but I shelved it, busy with stories for my nieces and nephews.
Whenever I read a modern, military book I wonder why we have so many movie remakes. There are hundreds of moving, amazing, self-sacrificing war stories. There are tender stories, hard stories, stories that will make you weep with their beauty. Instead, Hollywood badly retells something done well years ago. Why, when there are a wealth of stories in any given history book, especially military history?
A great idea, but I don’t make movies.
I have, on the other hand, had a certain amount of positive feedback from some of my flash fiction.
Hmmm. Two thoughts. Can I tie them together? Can I do something here?
I recently discovered Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie. It tracks the Marines as they move through the Pacific during WW2. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. And so sad. Leckie is a good writer and paints the scenes with a detailed, loving brush. Reading the book, I was moved by a small snippet of a battle Leckie shared to write a flash fiction. I wrote it. I loved it. I was thrilled. I found a way to share something I read, something that really happened, in a new and fresh way. I did what I always wanted: I took a heroic moment in the middle of a messy war and shared it with the world so that these men aren’t forgotten. I sent it to a handful of readers. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. I entered it into a contest and wrote another one. Here is Story 2:
The small blue and white flag fluttered in the warm, tropical breeze, glowing in the setting sun. Two generals—Julian Smith and Howlin’ Mad Smith—stood, gazing, eyes dimmed by tears.
Bodies lay piled up against the sea wall, some stirred by the still pink waves.
One body topped the pile.
One dead boy reached over the wall.
The flag planted.
The flag that called fellow Marines, “This way!”
Here was the beach to attack. Here was the force before which your lives must be thrown. The pillbox. The machine guns. The mortars. The field of fire. Here. Come this way. Attack here.
One boy on top of others, placed a flag, with his life.
The chief’s eye flashed; but presently
Softened itself, as sheathes
A film the mother-eagle’s eye
When her bruised eaglet breathes;
“You’re wounded!” “Nay,” the soldier’s pride
Touched to the quick, he said:
“I’m killed, Sire!” And his chief beside
Smiling the boy fell dead.
Marines saw the small flag. Marines poured from amtraks and LCMs.
They charged. Slogged. Crawled.
They fired. Tossed grenades. Fought hand to hand.
They died. Cried. Bled-out.
Days later, the Generals toured the scene of the dance with death. They saw their brave boys mixed with the enemy. They saw courage, sacrifice, and bitter loss. Carcasses of men jumbled with carcasses of machines. But, the day was won. The Atoll was theirs. The Generals toured and toured, measuring the ground gained against the lives lost.
But this. This blue and white flag planted as the last act of a dead boy brought tears to two old Marines’ eyes. This one little flag.
“This way,” it whispered in the evening breeze.
In poured the Marines.
“Julian,” Howlin’ Mad Smith went on in soft amendment—“how can such men be defeated?
—Inspired by Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie
 Incident at the French Camp by Robert Browning
 Quote from Strong Men Armed by Robert Leckie