Unit cohesion. Mission clarity. Execution. These are the keys to a perfect operation.
You have all three. You’re mustered out, eight weeks ago now, so you are a unit of one, and it doesn’t get any more cohesive than that. The mission has come down from On High: make a countervailing statement to win the hearts and minds of the home population.
Execution is where you excel. Rehearse the battle plan. Assemble the tools. Perfect stealth. Execute.
They are everywhere, but they’re starting to fade. We Support Our Troops, the yellow of the ribbon oxidized, the letters themselves barely legible. Pull into any parking lot at any mall, and they’re all around. Churches are good hunting grounds on Sunday mornings. You take a casual stroll through the parking lot, and you peel them off, one by one. They leave a ribbon-shaped ghost behind, one more soldier who died for the cause. Except now you know, the cause is imperfect. God, with his flaming sword, says so.
Thanks God, for giving me this mission. You say it out loud, it doesn’t matter who hears. Lord, Everything is lined up, straight and true. I am your humble servant.
Stealth is the key, and in a mall parking lot, perfect stealth is all about nonchalant, and you are all about nonchalant. Keep an eye out for the mall security, and fill up the pockets of your cargo pants. You buy a plastic tote at a big box store, and you go right to work collecting ribbons before you leave the parking lot. Big box stores are chill because they don’t have parking lot security. You need two hundred and fifty ribbons. You keep the tote in the trunk of your car, and mall by mall, church by church, you fill it.
The mission takes you three nights of perfect stealth in the dark of the moon. The first night was recon. Your rope with a grappling hook got you to the bottom rung of the ladder. Up the ladder at 3 a.m., after the drunks have emptied out of the bars, and before the early birds are out chasing their worms. The water tower was lit from the catwalk, so when you couldn’t find the switch, you covered the lights with duct tape. You leaned on the guardrail. The view from up there totally rocks, the glow of the city beneath the darkened heavens. No roads on the back side of the tower because Mt. Scott is too steep there for houses. A perfect backdrop, and a perfect place to stash the totes, on the backside of the tank. That was the second night, hoisting the totes up to the top, and your stepladder. Now, the third night, this is all execution. You look at your list, and put a checkmark next to each item.
Backpack. Check. Rope. Check. Flashlight. Check. Headlamp. Check. Chalk. Check. Suction-cup. Check. String. Check.
You check each item against the checks on your list, and then you pack them all in your pack. This is an action. This is resistance. This is the mission that God gives you. All those dead in Diyala Province, this is for them. Embrace the Suck. 2nd Battalion, you guys rock.
You throw the backpack into the trunk of your 1967 Pontiac Catalina. Your great white whale of a car. It is the car God wants you to drive. It has never been profaned by the hypocrisy of a ribbon on the back. You drive the criminal streets in perfect stealth. You park the car where it won’t be seen, and hoof it the rest of the way. Your feet make a hollow sound on the wooden bridge. Once across, you are in enemy territory. The water tower looms ahead.
First you draw the circle in chalk, eight feet wide on the side of the water tank. Suction-cup, string, perfect execution. A double row of Troops ribbons around the circle. Then the plumb line from the top, straight and true. Another double row down the middle of the circle. Now the crow’s foot, a double row of thirteen on each side. You have no ribbons left over when you finish. Perfect.
This will wake them up. They are all felons in the eyes of The Lord. All those people, who think putting a magnetic ribbon on the back of their gas-guzzling SUV makes it okay, they’ll see this peace sign, and when they see what it’s made of, they’ll know.
Now God speaks to you again, as He often does, in the silence of a sleepless night. Unit cohesion, perfect. Execution, perfect. The Lord is well pleased.
But the mission, The Lord says.
The mission what? you say.
The mission is incomplete, The Lord says.
Ah, you say. I had a feeling.
Imperfect, The Lord says.
I understand, you say. Perfect me.
Embrace the suck, The Lord says. Call the media.
Raise your flaming sword, you say, so they’ll know it’s You.
The Lord does so. You call the media, and you wait for them to arrive. The Lord is at your side.
And it comes to pass that a local tv crew arrives. You climb up on the guardrail. Their lights are bright, and your peace sign is a great circle behind you. You spread your arms. They called up to you, who are you, what do you want? The police come, and say hello to you through their bullhorn. Your phone rings, but you know what they want. The Lord tells you to throw down your cell phone, and you do so. Execution, it’s all about execution.
Don’t jump, the bullhorn says.
Irrelevant. Your buddies are waiting. Mundy. Rasmussen. Salinas with the Harley tattooed on his back. Grateful Dead Fred. They are one step away.
Your soul, the Lord says, will be quickened into an angel’s.
You look down at the ground, eighty feet below, and The Lord draws, with his flaming sword, the perfect plumb line your falling body will make.
Embrace the Suck.