For God and Country
January 23, 1944
Mount Trocchio, Italy
It was just a word, but it ran endlessly through the officer’s thoughts.
What was done to them was nothing short of murder. They had been led like lambs to the slaughter, and then they had been murdered. Hundreds of Texans dead. Thousands of Texans to languish for years in a German prisoner of war camp. Many more forever wounded in body and mind. And for what?
They were all dead. His friends, his cousin. Dead.
A crime that cried out for vengeance. No. For justice.
The tall officer unconsciously wiped away a silent tear before it could freeze to his face. He was uncomfortable—the rocks of the castle ruins were cold and unyielding against his damaged body—but he didn’t move. The mountain left him exposed to the harsh winter day, but he had thought that perhaps from its peak, he could see some signs of life on the battlefield. He thought, maybe, he could see his cousin. If he had even a suggestion or hint that his cousin was still alive, there was not a force in nature that could stop him from crossing the freezing river again and bringing him home. But he saw nothing.
A temporary truce had been arranged and the short peace had already come and gone as American and German medics had worked through the battlefield together. The war was back on but the battlefield remained silent. There would be no further attacks across the river today—there was no one left to send over.
The officer scanned the battlefield again through the scope—he had taken a sniper rifle with the unlikely expectation that he would be able to help those on the other side. He saw nothing and sighed. His sigh turned to a groan, and the groan gave way to a single, broken, sob of despair. They were all gone.
He took a deep breath and decided it was time to leave. He couldn’t help anyone here, but he was needed down in the valley. The company, the battalion, the regiment…the division…would have to be rebuilt. There was work to be done.
As he was turning to leave, movement in the corner of his eye caught his attention. It was a staff car. Another general come to assess the carnage, he thought bitterly. The car moved slowly, the driver not wanting to rock the vehicle as he drove across the cratered road.
The officer brought the rifle up to his cheek and looked at the car and its emerging occupant through the scope. Through the distance, he saw a tall, arrogant-looking officer emerge from the car. Even without the distant glint of silver stars, he knew who the officer was. He shivered first, and then his whole body began to tremble with a building rage and hatred.
More than the German grenadiers, more than the enemy artillery or their spotters in the brooding abbey on the mountain, more than the swift freezing river or the mud or the minefields, the man in his crosshairs was responsible for the slaughter of his friends and family.