Please welcome my guest Stan Hampton back to Fearless Friday for another life altering segment of his life.
So here we are again, Fearless Friday.
As I said before, people like a safe and known routine; most are not likely to do anything that requires a leap of faith to plunge into an unknown even though the rewards may be great.
Believe it or not, my decision to join the Army National Guard at the ripe old age of 52 was something I had to think long and hard about. I served in the Army from 1974-1985, attaining the rank of Staff Sergeant. Then I served in the Army Reserve from 1985-1995, attaining the rank of Sergeant First Class, as well as being mobilized for the Persian Gulf War (I never left the country; I spent the brief war stateside writing photojournalism articles). In 1995 I left the Army Reserve.
The idea of military service did not come up as a real possibility until the fall of 2004.
By then I had left Colorado Springs for Las Vegas, lived briefly in Arizona a couple of times, reconciled with my ex-wife (meaning that I decided not to hate her or the world and everyone in it anymore—I had spent most of my life consumed by anger) and saw an engagement fall apart. And there was 9/11. Just like the beginning of the Persian Gulf War, my Army was going to war without me.
In the fall of 2004 I was researching the Army National Guard as background for a story I was writing, and it came to my attention that I was eligible to enlist in the Guard. Before I knew it, I was speaking with a recruiter.
So, at age 52, unemployed, and living in a Las Vegas weekly (cross between a motel and an apartment), the idea of returning to military service dangled before me. I could come back as a Staff Sergeant, but upon retirement (if I stayed in the Guard), I would retire at my previous rank of Sergeant First Class. I would also retrain as a Human Resources NCO. My commitment would be one weekend a month, and two weeks during the summer.
As “dead end” as my current life appeared to be, it was still a known routine, perhaps even one I was, unfortunately, comfortable with. Yet, after visiting with a friend who I considered to be smart and to have a good head on her shoulders, I decided to enlist. I had always missed the military, and especially the camaraderie; it is a camaraderie that one may only find among the police and firemen.
While working for a temporary employment agency in support of a convention in Las Vegas, I enlisted in October 2004; the owner of the agency and my immediate supervisor were present to watch my swearing in.
Three weeks later I received orders mobilizing me for active duty with my Guard Cavalry squadron at Fort Irwin, California (they were mobilized for active duty in August 2004). Yes, I was nervous, and I had second thoughts. As I packed, I wondered why I enlisted.
On Thanksgiving Day I was doing morning Physical Training (PT) with my unit—the first time I did PT since 1985, and it was painful. Before PT ended, the Troop Commander had us gather in a circle, and the Squadron Chaplain spoke to us. That cold morning as the sun peeked over the horizon, the Chaplain reminded us that we were out there in uniform, on Thanksgiving morning, doing our job, serving our country, so that the rest of our fellow citizens could enjoy the holiday with their families.
Rhetorically, I wondered how many men my age were in uniform doing PT on Thanksgiving morning instead of being at home with their families. I felt a burst of pride in serving with my fellow Soldiers.
At that moment my remaining doubts disappeared.
THE GATES OF MOSES
BLURB: An engineer dedicated to saving Venice from the rising seas, fails in his task. As a severe storm and high tides threaten to burst through the flood walls, he resolves to remain in Venice with a ghostly lover who claimed his heart years before. A woman from his staff who loves him, does not evacuate, but remains to battle his ghostly lover before he dies in a sinking Venice…
EXCERPT: The dull booms, like the measured beats of a primeval heart, echoed through the gray drizzling afternoon. Each boom was a countdown to a finely predicted cataclysm that man, through his mistaken notion that he could control nature, had finally admitted that he was powerless to hold back.
Dr. Gregorio Romano, tall, with dark brown hair and watchful hazel eyes, stood before the open tall narrow window of his corner office in the ornate, gilded Ducal Palace of the once La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and peered into the gray drizzle toward the unseen barrier islands. The almost submerged islands of Lido and Pellestrina, with their channels opening onto the Adriatic Sea, formed the southeastern perimeter of the timeless Venetian lagoon. He listened to the echoing booms of the rising, stormy Adriatic, and thought of a mythical, prehistoric mother who gave birth to an imaginative species that dreamed of the impossible and often made it happen. And now the mother was ready to take back one of the greatest dreams of her children, ready to clasp it deep within her bosom.
“Yes,” he replied as he gazed at the gray choppy waters of the lagoon.
“Have you reconsidered? Are you ready to evacuate?”
“Not yet.” Gregorio tilted his head slightly as a sleek dark gondola glided effortlessly across frothy, white-capped waters and halted before the flooded wharf, the Riva degli Schiavoni, in front of the Palace.
Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, looked up at him and gave a friendly wave. He raised a hand in return. Her gondola was a traditionally built and shaped boat, but rather than the traditional black as required by law, she painted it a dark wine color. Though she offered to erect a shelter to protect Gregorio from the elements, he always preferred to ride in the open.
“We can evacuate you by force if necessary.”
“You won’t,” Gregorio smiled as he turned to face his computer on the polished wooden desk. The broad, bearded face of his boss, Dr. Niccolo Ricci, nodded in agreement. “There’s no need, and a helicopter is scheduled to pick me up from the roof of my home tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”
“The calculations might be incorrect. The gates could break tonight...”
SS Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, a published photographer and photojournalist, and a member of the Military Writers Society of America. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007). His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others. Second-career goals include becoming a painter and studying for a degree in photography and anthropology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology. After 12 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters. As of December 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton officially became a homeless Iraq War veteran.
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