Fixing Hell

Fixing Hell by Larry C. James, Gregory A. Freeman

Book: Fixing Hell by Larry C. James, Gregory A. Freeman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Larry C. James, Gregory A. Freeman
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visited the Smithsonian Asian Art and African American museums, just like any other couple enjoying a Sunday afternoon jaunt in downtown D.C. Military husbands and wives have a way of compartmentalizing worry, fear, and the normal emotions that paralyze most couples, so we spoke little about my conversation with Colonel Banks and what it would mean for us.
    The next morning, Janet and I boarded a United Airlines plane out of Reagan National Airport to Honolulu and headed west for what we thought would be a needed break. We arrived in Honolulu late that Monday night and were greeted by our son and granddaughter and a close family friend at the airport. How I had longed over these long five years at Walter Reed to be with my son and my granddaughter again! My three-year-old granddaughter held a striking resemblance to my son. Her intense brown eyes, engaging laugh, affection for all living things around her, and energy would capture the hearts of many. We went to Anna Miller’s All Night Restaurant and had breakfast. My granddaughter sat on my lap the entire time and must have said my name fifty times. My son, as usual, lamented the many problems with his antique cars, spoke excitedly of his new job, and told us of the splendor of now being a college graduate. I couldn’t have been happier.
    I reported for duty bright and early the next morning, May 11, at 7:30 a.m. I had no downtime to get my bearings, but that was okay. At least I was in Hawaii again. On the way to my office I met my secretary, whom I knew from my earlier work at the hospital, in the hallway. I expected to exchange some pleasantries. But instead she looked at me strangely.
    “Colonel James, we’re surprised to see you,” she said. Her voice was tinged with an unusual seriousness, as if she were worried. “You’re not supposed to be here . . .”
    “Ms. Judy, what on earth are you talking about?” I asked.
    The look on her face was growing more and more serious. “Colonel, you have orders on your desk that say you should have been at a place in Iraq called Abu-something by yesterday. We thought you must be there already.”
    The blood drained from my head. Awww shit . . . I stumbled into the office of the chief psychologist, the officer I came to Hawaii to replace, and demanded an explanation. “What in the heck is going on?”
    Meeting my forceful language with his own, he replied, “Larry, you need to call Colonel Banks ASAP. All hell has broken loose up on the Hill with this Abu Ghraib thing and Congress wants it fixed now!!”
    Dazed by the sudden acceleration, I could only think over and over how I had naively counted on three to six months before I headed down range to Iraq. I found a phone, called Colonel Banks, and informed him that I felt a tad misled.
    “Morgan,” I said, trying hard to keep my voice light, “you have a new definition of the word ‘soon.’ You just talked with me yesterday about this.” He briefed me on the urgency, how the pressure on President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld was mounting and the Army needed to send me there to put a plan in place posthaste. The colonel reminded me that, regardless of what either the president or Rumsfeld wanted, it was the right moral thing to put procedures in place quickly so that the abuses would never occur again. I couldn’t argue with that.
    I made some phone calls to get more details. In between each call, I dialed my wife, but hung up before the call went through. This talk with my soul mate of thirty years needed to be in person. I realized that the loneliness of being away from her had already begun to haunt me deep in my soul.
    My wife was a seasoned veteran of the madness of military life and I knew she would roll with this latest punch just as she had done many times in years past. But we both would later learn that this deployment would try and test both of our souls in ways we had never experienced before. As I walked into our hotel room, even before I spoke,

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