Infantry school continued, and as it came to a close in the middle of May, the Marines were told that during the last week of training there would be a three day war, where the platoon would be split up and set against each other to practice all of the skills they had learned in the previous month. Everybody was psyched up for the war, and when it started the first and third squads were set against the second and fourth squads. Jack’s fourth squad was put into trenches around a “command post”, and for 48 hours sent out patrols, conducted raids, sat on guard duty, and basically ran through everything learned. On the third night, the fourth squad conducted a very successful raid on 1st and 3rd squads by pretending to be members of those squads who had captured a corporal. After the raid, fourth squad fell back and set an ambush for anyone following them.
It was a typical “L” shaped ambush, with the short line crossing the road, and the long line hidden just off the road. Any enemy walking into it would be caught in two lines of fire, and there was no escape but to charge the ambushers and hope you survived. Jack had been placed at the very end of the long line, and would be the first to see the enemy approach if they came down the road. He would then signal the next man that bad guys were coming, and the signal would go down the squad so everyone was ready to surprise the enemy.
Jack and everyone else was lying prone (on their bellies), M-16’s pointed into the kill zone. Minutes of waiting turned into what seemed like hours. It was well after midnight when they had set the ambush, and everybody was tired. They had been awake more or less for three days. Jack knew that he couldn’t fall asleep, because if he did it could jeopardize the ambush and perhaps even get them all “killed.” But the strain on his neck was bothersome, so occasionally he would put his head down to stretch his neck, rocking his head back and forth, then look back up and down the road. Still no contact. At least the scenery was nice. Far from any city or town lights, the pitch black sky was awash with stars. Jack could see the Milky Way clearly, and passed the time finding as many constellations as he could remember.
Jack put his head down to stretch his neck again. When he opened his eyes and raised his head though, something had changed. The sky, once inky black, had turned a rusty reddish orange color. He could still see the stars and the Milky Way, but the red color had filled the black of space. He was wondering at that when he noticed a man crouched in the grasses next to him. It was a man about his age, but dressed only in an Indian breechcloth and moccasins. He had long, black hair with a feather in it. His face was painted from a line going from one ear, across the top of his nose, and down to the other ear. Above the line was red, below was not painted. In his right hand he held a spear, and on his left arm was a shield painted green, with some dots and a lightning bolt painted on. They looked at each other and smiled a greeting. Jack felt no fear or surprise. It was as if the Indian had been there all along. No words were spoken, but somehow Jack heard the Indian tell him that he would always be safe in combat, that he would never be injured or killed because the Indian had his back. This seemed perfectly normal to Jack, and he wondered if he had somehow gone back in time and was now an Indian waiting to ambush the blue coated soldiers who invaded his lands. Jack felt that all was right with the world, and everything would be fine. His warrior friend pointed down the road with his spear, and as Jack turned his head to look, the sky fell instantly into blackness again. Jack blinked, but saw the first ghostly shapes of infantrymen coming down the road. He turned back to where the Indian had been, but the ground was, of course, empty.
“What a dream!” Jack thought as he moved slightly and signaled the Marine next to him that the enemy had arrived.