The late military historian Sir John Keegan posed a question about soldiers in war: How do they do it? How do they function under horrific, terrifying stress? His conclusion in his landmark work, “Face of Battle,” was that soldiers don’t die for their country; they don’t sacrifice themselves, risking death and debilitating injury, for Mom, apple pie, or even the girl/boy next door. They do it for their friends, their band of brothers and recently sisters who face the same perils together. Platoons become families, as much as one’s biological family, and perhaps even more so.
Imagine the sense of betrayal, then, when a family member turns on you? I’ve been a frequent contributor to the Coming Together series. Can’t think of better ways to put licentious literature to work. When I found that “In The Trenches” would be dedicated to Protect Our Defenders, I was onboard in a heartbeat. They are the folks who are trying to expose and prevent sexual violence in the military. I can only hope that soon the culture that looks the other way when a soldier is violated will come around and see that everyone ought to have the right for defend his and her country, notwithstanding gender or sexual orientation, no more than having a different color skin precluded heroic service.
My story, “Once Upon a Thursday,” focuses on a military family too. During the American Civil War a squad of federal soldiers is assigned to protect a train of supply wagons. The wagons carry the makings of a feast for the first official Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
Unfortunately, they get separated from the wagon train and become lost in the woods of Northern Virginia. Taking another cue from Keegan, who determined that the sphere of combat is actually very small and limited to the average soldier, my soldiers are lost, unable to see what’s ahead or behind them, even unsure of what direction to follow. But, as they blunder blindly through the forest they encounter another family, a young woman and seven elderly men, living in a ramshackle tobacco barn.
There is no logical reason for these people to be in the middle of nowhere, but really, there’s no logical reason why young men from faraway places should be blundering through there too. Like war itself, it just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That these two groups join in a family feast speaks to the human need to make connections, especially in the midst of the chaos of war.
I am very proud to be in this anthology and in the company of some outstanding, imaginative writers.
Grab your copy of Coming Together: In The Trenches here.
Robert Buckley is a frequent contributor to the Coming Together series of anthologies, including a single-author “Coming Together Presents Robert Buckley.” His stories have also appeared in multiple editions of “Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica.” He is senior fiction editor for the Erotica Readers and Writers Association http://www.erotica-readers.com/ERA/index.htm, where many of his stories are archived.