#FridayFlash: DADT Is Alive And Well

The Commandant had read three reports like this since taking over the Academy twenty-two years ago. By design, they buried and obfuscated the important information. Reporters were like those burrowing scarab beetles in Iraq - as happy to bite their way into living flesh as they were to strip the meat from a corpse. However cold and self-serving, though, reporters weren't stupid; any public figure who made the mistake of thinking they could be outwitted ended up being consumed by them.

Still, there was no need to make their job any easier. His goal was to slow them down long enough for another, fresher scandal to present itself and draw them off.

The report itself was one hundred eighty-one pages long, including the appendices with the forensics, the photographs, and the interview transcripts from witnesses, commanders, squad mates and others who knew the two dead cadets. The conclusion section took another eleven pages to restate the facts and restate the conclusions drawn from them. The media packet was six pages. The executive summary was a single page, presenting in nine bullet points the brief military careers and untimely deaths of Senior Cadet Liam Brendan O'Shaunnasy (Little Neck, Long Island, NY) and Cadet Caleb Joshua Marshfield (Corbetville, MO).

He looked again at the top page.

Two fine young men, noted scholars and leaders among their peers, the prides of their respective hometowns. Both from military families - a long line of officers for O'Shaunnasy, a long line of proud grunts and jarheads for Marshfield. Bright futures tragically cut short by an accident in a nighttime training exercise on the ropes course. They fell together from the top platform, fifty feet above the ground, each working to save the lives of the rest of the squad as the platform collapsed. Their actions showed the sterling qualities of heroism and self-sacrifice that made them each a model cadet. Their loss was the nation's loss. Although their families can take but little comfort, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera...

Officially, the platform collapsed because the steel pins used in a critical support plate were corroded. In a separate assessment, strictly verbal and not included in the report, the base engineer concluded that the pins had been hacksawed through. Not enough to make the platform fall, but enough to make it lurch under the weight of an entire squad. The squad was never in any real danger.

The Commandant picked up the envelope that had been slipped under his door. It contained a single slip of paper, barely bigger than a return address label, with a single sentence anonymously laser printed in 12 pt Times New Roman.

"DADT - suicide pact"

He looked out at the night through his darkened windows. The phone would eventually stop ringing, the reporters would find a new bone to chew on, the FOI requests would go away, the lawsuits would be settled. Life at the Academy would go on.

But not for Senior Cadet O'Shaunnasy and Cadet Marshfield. Not for Liam and Caleb.

There were lessons in courage that he and the Academy could impart to his charges... how to face the enemy, how to kill, how to lead, how to find the best within yourself. How is it that he had never thought to teach his students how to face up to their own families? How to tell the truth about who they are, and who they might love? That "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was all about lies and concealment, not truth and honor?

He couldn't immediately revise the curriculum to start teaching that character message. Those two young men had arranged their own lover's deaths rather than admit who they were to their families. He was not going to ruin that by being hasty and giving someone the chance to connect the dots.

With a firm hand, the Commandant balled up the slip of paper, chewed it thoroughly and swallowed it.

===== Feel free to comment on this or any other post.

16 comments:

  1. I spent the first two thirds convinced that, since it was you, there was some ludicrous thing they weren't allowed to talk about, that you were obfuscating. Like, DADT others that you're a dinosaur. Darn my funny bone.

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    1. I guess we should rather say, darn my reputation for writing weird stuff!

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  2. The commandant has style. *salutes*

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  3. I must admit, half way through, I assumed it was a test to find the most courageous soldiers to enter into a super-soldier programme or something!

    But, alas, this was satisfyingly different.

    Love the ending! *chomp*

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    1. Clearly, I've been doing too much sci-fi lately. 8-)

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  4. I can't decide if it's a good thing that he's chosen to hide their true selves from the media, or a bad thing...surely, if people knew why they'd chosen suicide, then it would bring the issue into the public domain, whereas hiding it and making it look like an accident means it will never be talked about?

    Maybe I just think in a weird way.

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    1. It's a toss-up. He's respecting the wishes of the two, yet trying to arrange it so that something like this doesn't happen again. But it also means allowing them to remain covered by a lie. Which is the more honorable path?

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  5. Like some of the others, I was prepared for odd and that further drove home the dramatic quality of this piece when I was proven wrong. A happy surprise, given the subject matter.

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  6. I liked this. It's well written and the POV works for me. It also gets us thinking so well done for that too.

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    1. The reactions have been interesting, that's for sure.

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  7. Please publish already, Tony. Damn good work. xx

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    1. I'm working on it, I'm working on it!

      ;-)

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