Blinded Soldier

Blinded Soldiers  

Matthew Picaso is dreaming of sleeping in with his wife Jessica. They were newly wed. There were no screaming toddlers to wake them from their sleep on their day off. Unfortunately, his dream is interrupted rudely by the waking of two toddlers, who in turn are awoken by the persistent ringing of the bell by an insistent visitor.

Mathew woke up feeling heavy and foggy. There is no Jessica.

Where is Jessica? What day is it? How come I am not at work? Did I oversleep?

It takes a moment for Mathew to recall that Jessica is on an anti-terrorists mission to Iraq. The door bell keeps ringing and Mathew's head pounds with increasing volume of twin toddlers' screeching. Matt pauses at the edge of his bed to decide whom he should attend to first, Kiki or Nevada? If Jessica is home, they would get to them at the same time.

When would she be back? I thought they told me at the counter-intelligence office? Wait... When did they tell me? How come I can't remember?

He picks up Kiki first before heading downstairs to answer the door.

"Good morning, Matt. You are still in your pajamas? You don't look well", Virigia pats Matt on his arm, let herself in and heads quickly upstairs to Nevada, who is still screaming at the top of his lungs. "I will feed and help the kids get dressed while you change, the service would start at eleven hundred sharp and we need to get to the church by then", Virginia shouts while scurrying down the stairs with Nevada.

Still feeling foggy, Matt asks, "What? Service? Today is Sunday?"

After walking under the sun for a few minutes, Matt finally feels the flog in his head is starting to clear up. Even though he still can't remember how he and Virginia scheduled to meet up for church this morning, he tries to make polite conservations.

"You know, Virginia, I have always marveled at how efficient women can be in taking care of children. I don't think I would be able to get to church in one piece today without your help."

"I don't think it has to do with my being a woman. It has to do with the military training. What I don't get is how and why you and Jessica would join the Mandala military, being all the way out from Spain."

"Mandala military is short of recruits because young folks at Mandala prefer easier lifestyle that don't involve tough training and risks. The military sent recruiting officers to villages in Africa, promising salary that seem astronomical to young men that could not make $1 a day in their own countries, as well as permanent residency after 5 years of service."

"We crossed path with an officer stopping by Spain on his way back to Mandala. We were young. Jessica wanted to see the world.", slowing down his pace a bit, Matt continued. "It is nice today. When Jessica left for her mission in the winter, it was freezing cold."

"Yah, when one is confronted with poverty and limited opportunities, joining the military seems to be the way to get around. I came from a small mining town that had been depressed for ages. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I turned fifteen.", added Virginia.

"Here we are. Mandala Universalist Church."

Somehow, the vision of the cross against the sky makes Matt want to turn back and run.

Why do we have to be at the church today? Did I forget something very important?

While getting Kiki out of the stroller, Mathew comments, "You know, Jessica and I were brought up as believers. Yet after living in Mandala City all these years, it never crossed our mind to attend church services. Perhaps I should talk to Jessica about having the family attending services regularly again."

Here Matt begins to stutter, "But I have been kind of out of it lately....and.. forgot what you told me... ahhm...about when Jessica is coming back..."

Virginia's face falls and does not answer his question. Instead, she starts for the gate of the church with Nevada his her arms.

Why is she not answering my question? 
Matt hurries behind Virginia to try to get an answer from her. Yet inside the church, Matthew is startled by the presence of many military officers, including the highest-ranking General Buzz Grunt. Here, Matt instinctively wants to turn back and run again. Perhaps his heart isn't really into regaining his faith. Perhaps he is anxious about his being out of it lately, that he does not remember what date today is, or the last time he actually went to work.

Yet there is nowhere to run. He did not schedule to meet up with Virginia to attend church. This service is an official event for which he had no recollection of hearing the announcement of. 

When did Mandala military make church attendance an official requirement? 

Matt's heart begins to race as he contemplates about checking in with the hospital about his late memory lapses. General Buzz's steady gaze made him so uptight that he does not clearly hear what Jeff is saying to him when he entered the hall.

As Matt enters the chapel, he is overtaken by nausea. He keeps his gaze on the stained glass window while walking down the whole stretch of the distance to the pew at the first row, where Virgina has set Nevada down.
After placing Kiki besides Virginia, he barely sits himself down before everything becomes a blur .
"Matt, you really don't look well, are you all right?"
"I feel dizzy. Maybe it will go away after a few minutes."
While everything swirls around Matthew, General Buzz Grunt's booming voice cuts through his skull like chalk being drawn forcefully across the blackboard, giving him headache.

What is General Buzz Grunt saying?

"We are here to today to ... even at the time of loss ... we still need to remember that the security of our country is most important ... a soldier cannot let personal grief overtake him ... a soldier needs to carry on his duties and responsibilities ... sacrifices are needed for a greater cause... "

Why  is General Buzz preaching on a Sunday? What the fuck is he talking about?

"Mama... Mama...", Kiki yelped happily while pointing his fingers in the direction of the cross.
Matt's gaze follows Kiki's voice from the stain class downward as his vision begins  to clear. Below the stained-glass window is the cross symbolizing the sacrifice Christ made for humanity, and below the cross is the coffin containing the sacrifices soldiers and their families make for the sake of their country - his wife, his very wife, the mother of his two children.
Matt froze. Today is not Sunday. There is no escape now. He remembers everything. While working at the counter intelligence agency a couple months ago, he discovered that they had made a mistake concerning terrorist activities in Iraq. He was called in for a clandestine meeting with the highest-ranking officer then. 

"Lieutenant Picaso. We have already made announcements to send in troops. Any intelligence that undermines the support for our operation will undercut the credibility of the military. I assume you know what you must do."

A couple of months ago, intimidated by the authority and strength in that voice, the same voice that rang through the church now, Lieutenant Picaso did nothing. Two weeks after, the elite force of which Jessica was part of was dispatched. 

Matt remembers everything, with a pure, honest rage that dispels all fears and lies. Sensing the rage of her father, Kiki begins to whimper and Nevada quickly joins her in a strange chorus. Ignoring the justifications for war and patriotic sacrifices that ring very hollow now, Matt stands up from the pew and walks up to where Jessica is.

Jessica, welcome home. 

Taking hold of Jessica's hand, which is cold and lifeless, Matt says his final good-bye to his wife.

Jessica, forgive me for my complacence.

I am so sorry. I should have stood up for the truth.

Despite of toddlers' wailings and a bereaved husband's taking the liberty to leave the assigned seating, General Buzz Grunt retains his composure and completes the entire speech he has planned for the funeral service.
At the end of service, General Buzz Grunt confronts Lieutenant Picaso about the later party's disregard of authority, as well as about the many days of absence from the counter intelligence office. Lieutenant Picaso does not pay him the respect for the highest-ranking officer, instead, Lieutenant Picaso threw him a surprise punch with the ferocity of a husband recently bereft of his wife.

"Consider this the end of your military career...", General Buzz Grunt threatens while shielding himself from further attacks.

"You with your distorted world view that demonizes everyone who holds different views from you! Consider this the end of your military career as well", Matthew Picaso spit back the response while straightening his suite.

"Excuse me, SIR, I now have more important RESPONSIBILITIES to attend to. Virginia, would you please help me with getting Kiki and Nevada back in the strollers?" With that, Matthew Picaso walks away from his last day of military service.

Controversies Surrounding Child Adoption

Rising young actor Gunnar Roque has adopted a baby boy Hildago. We were able to intercept him outside of his residence at the Eros apartment for a short interview.

"Gunnar, could you tell us what motivates you to adopt the Hildago?"

Flashing his trade-mark charismatic smile, he replied,
"There are many unfortunate children who lost their parents to war, diseases, and government atrocities around the world. As a global citizen, I feel a personal responsibility to do whatever I can do within my capabilities." At that point, Gunnar's driver began to honk.

".. well. The director of the set would breath down my neck if I don't get there on time. Here is the number for my agent, he will fill you in on more of the details".
Preservation of Family Values, a non-governmental organization started by Jenny Smith of Strangetown, has voiced concerns about child adoption issues.

"We are glad that Gunnar Roque has brought awareness to the conditions and needs of children around the world. Yet we also hope to see individuals paying more attention to provide for a secure environment for adopted children to thrive. Showing our children the importance of marital commitment should be part of our responsibilities too", Jenny Smith spoke from her home in Strangetown.

In that light, Gunnar Roque seems to fall a bit short. Gunnar is currently engaged to his girlfriend Jasmine Rai, who is still completing her degree at Fiesta Tech. The couple has not made announcement to seal the deal soon. Instead, Gunnar has been seen in close association with Chloe Curious-Smith of Singles, a band that is trying to make a debut recently.


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