The gunfire raged on around the soldiers. Cramped in the rain soaked trenches, waiting for the signal for them to join in the fighting, they took on different positions; kneeling or leaning against the muddy walls that concealed their presence from the enemies, cracking lewd jokes to hide the tension that had begun to build. A soldier lit a cigarette, the amber glow a mere speck in the darkness that swallowed them whole.
“Captain Audu, do you think we’ll make it?” A young soldier asked.
The man he was addressing turned, revealing a face with hard features and a strong jaw. Two small tribal marks lined either side of his face just below the temples.
“Do I think we’ll make it?” He asked no one in particular “Do I think we will not be obliterated by the better equipped rebel forces? I think it doesn’t matter what I think. What will be will be.”
“But sir-” The soldiered attempted to counter but was cut short
“You haven’t been a soldier for very long, have you?”
“Fresh from NDA sir.”
“Then sit down and let me tell you something”
Bodies moved in the darkness and an unnatural hush settled on the group. The gunfire, distant explosions and crackle of the walkie-talkie filled up the silence before the Captain spoke again.
“I was just a young soldier fresh from NDA when I fought my first war. It was a peacekeeping mission that turned into a peace enforcement mission. Rebel forces much like these idiots were running rampant in the country we had been sent to as part of a UN coalition. There was a young officer, about my age back then. He was the most optimistic chap I had ever met, never failing to point out the good in any situation.”
The captain paused as the cigarette was handed to him. He took a long drag and passed it on to the next man, letting out the smoke casually from his nostrils.
“He was a good man, always carried his Bible everywhere with him. He soon became the unofficial pastor of the platoon. One day, working with some Intel we received from some reliable source, we headed for the rebel base, ready to crush the last of the resistance. It was a sad day and many people died, good people.”
“What happened to your friend?” The soldier asked.
“He died. The bullet tore right through the bible in his pocket and went straight through his heart.”
The sound of rapid gunfire tore through the air, replacing the silence in the trenches. The captain spoke again after the gun fire subsided.
“In life and war, it does not matter what you think. All you have to do is make the most of what you’ve been given. You’ve been given a gun, and a brain. Make use of it. God doesn’t work with opinion polls. Do what you must, take no chances, immerse yourself into the moment and live. Make a pact with yourself to ensure you’re alive at the end of today.”
The crackle of the walkie talkie reverberated through the trenches. The command to join the fighting had arrived
“This night, what will be will be! But by God, we won’t let them decide what will be! Advance position! Shoot at will!”
With that, the 18th Battalion charged into the front lines like men possessed, drunk in the carnage that lay beyond them, unaware that tales of their sacrifice and heroics would be told for years to come.