Ben pulled up to the tri-level home in the small cul-de-sac. Radcliff was sitting on the front porch with a cigarette drooping from his mouth waiting for his arrival. He stood up with some difficulty and walked towards him with a smile.
"Long time, no see!"
"I know, I know," responded Bed as he shook his hand.
Radcliff opened the bottle for him studying his face for a brief moment.
"You look rough, man."
"I've been having problems sleeping. The VA isn't helping much."
Radcliff half laughed as he responded, "When do they ever?"
Ben noticed his friend's worried expression.
"I'm okay, really. So how's life?"
Radcliff rambled about work and other things as he fiddled with his beer cap. Ben listened as he swung slightly on the porch swing. He studied Radcliff as he chatted away and saw that he had too changed over time. There were gray hairs sprouting from his light brown hair and his dark amber eyes didn't have the happiness they once had a few years ago. A green car pulled up on the driveway and parked next to Ben's car.
"Who's that?" asked Ben standing up.
"It's Taylor. He said he had some friends who wanted to come over and drink as well."
Ben watched as three men stepped out of the vehicle. He recognized him immediately as he walked over to them, Taylor deployed with him. The two behind him Ben could not identify.
"Hey, Taylor. What's going on?"
"Not much. Ready to get my drink on. This is Wyatt and Reyes. They are in my new unit with me."
Ben shook both of their hands. He looked back at Taylor who hugged him and hit his back hard twice with an open hand.
"I haven't seen you in forever. How have you been?"
"Okay I guess. Just fighting the VA on everything."
"That sucks. Well, at least you are here to take some stress off."
All the men walked into Radcliff's house and plopped on the chairs in his joint living room and dining room. Radcliff flipped through the channels until finding a football game.
"How do you like your new unit?" asked Ben.
"It's nice. We aren't spending every other fucking day in the field so I have nothing to complain about."
"Oh, I remember those days."
Taylor chuckled. "I bet you don't miss them either."
Ben shook his head. As the boys continued to talk, Ben listened quietly while staring down at his beer can.
"So, how do you like civilian life Ben?"
Ben looked up. Taylor was leaned back in the recliner waiting for Ben to respond.
"It's okay I suppose. It has it's ups and downs much like everything else."
"I don't know how you do it bro. I have days where that's all I want and other days I don't know how I would live on without the Army."
Ben nodded in understanding. He knew that feeling all too well.
"What do you boys think of your new unit? Is this your first?" asked Ben.
Wyatt and Reyes nodded in unison.
"Yep, it's our first rodeo for sure. Can't complain though," responded Wyatt with a thick Southern accent.
Radcliff came out of the kitchen with an arm full of packaged meat.
"Ben, will you help me take all this stuff out to the patio table?"
Ben stood up and limped towards him.
"Two broken people make one whole person right?" snorted Taylor.
"Shut the fuck up," responded Radcliff.
Ben smirked and helped Radcliff outside with the meat.
"You got enough to feed an army!"
"That's the point," laughed Radcliff as he put the mesquite wood in the pit.
YOU ARE READING
The Veteran Left Behind - ON HOLDGeneral Fiction
Ben is a disabled Army veteran that struggles on a day to day basis. The nightmares keep him from sleeping. The daily physical pain is almost unbearable. But, the worst burden he must face now is the memories that haunt his mind. It takes an gra...