The Folded Flag – Part 9

Fold eight, up and to the right, and it is another religious-based symbol, giving honor to the one who walked through the valley of the shadow of death that we might see light.

 

We were at our final school, the Pararescue Recovery Specialist School, by the time Easter rolled around. They did not give us the Easter weekend off: granted, we had the actual Easter Sunday off, but we were all pretty miffed that we had to stay on base. It wasn’t that we had any religious reasons for wanting to leave; at least not most of us. It was, however, a chance to go home and see our families, and they shot down that idea. None of us were very happy.

Pepper decided to make the best of it, however, just like he always did. He made an announcement on Saturday night that he was planning to read the Easter story from the Bible the following morning. He did not make a big deal about it, but invited anyone who was interested to listen.

I really didn’t care to listen to the Easter story, but when the time came the next morning, I plopped down on the bed next to Pepper’s, tucked my hands behind my head and prepared to hear him out. It was important to Pepper, and for some reason, what was important to Pepper had become important to me. So I lay there, eyes closed and listened. Several other guys showed up and found seats around. I think there ended up being around eight of us listening. Most of them were from our poker group, but there were a couple others. I was there mostly just to support Pepper, but I found my interest slightly piqued as I listened.

Most Americans have at least heard the basis of the Easter story, as had I. However, there were details that I had never heard before, and some of them made me think more about this religious stuff than I usually did.

We pretty much just chilled the rest of the day. Pepper’s mother had sent him a care package that served us all well. There were a few packages of doughnuts, which he plopped in the middle of the barracks for everyone to share. It didn’t make any difference to us that they had an expiration date of a month before stamped on the bag, or that they had probably been smushed in that box for a couple of weeks. The slightly-flattened, powder-sugared circles tasted perfect to us. She had also sent him a package of brightly colored, plastic eggs, and we had an Easter egg hunt in the barracks, cheerfully allowing ourselves the pleasure of reverting to childhood, if only for a short time.

Later that evening, after dinner, I found Pepper sitting on his bed, holding a note. His face was a little pale and his jaw seemed unusually tight.

“Hey, Pep, what’s wrong?” I asked. He handed me the sheet of paper that he had been staring at. In bold letters it read, Go back where you came from, Bible Boy. Of course, it wasn’t signed, but I knew who had written it; Pepper did too. Morrison. Mike Morrison had been very antagonistic towards Pepper from the beginning and refused to give an inch. Granted, none of us had been kind to him when we first met, and I was his only real friend, but most of the guys had come to respect Pepper, if not admire or even like him. Morrison, however, had taken it upon himself to try to beat Pepper down until he gave up and quit. I knew Pepper must have been getting tired of him, and I wondered if this was going to be the final blow before Pepper let him have it. Frankly, I wanted to find the guy and beat his brains out. Pepper had not disturbed anyone with his reading of the Easter story; he had not shouted through a megaphone, or insisted that anyone attend. He had done it for himself and for anyone who cared to listen, and Morrison had no right to give him grief about it.

“Calm down, Thatch,” Pepper said, seeing me tense. “It’s not that big a deal.”

“It is a big deal, though, Pepper. It is. This guy has not let up off your case for the last year. When are you going to tell him where to get off?” Pepper just shook his head.

“If I exploded at him it would just be lowering myself to his level and giving him exactly what he wants.” I huffed out an exasperated sigh.

“You know, Pepper, this righteous act of yours sometimes gets on my nerves. Can’t you just act human sometimes?” Pepper laughed.

“Righteousness has nothing to do with this, Thatch. This is simply rationale. If I let him get to me, then he’s won.”

“The guy is a jerk, though,” I said.

“I know. And I don’t want to be like him.” I shook my head.

“Okay. C’mon, let’s see if there are any doughnuts left.”

– S.D. Bullard

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~ by sdbullard on April 25, 2012.

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