The Major had a hole in his head.
It wasn’t a hole, like a hole in a sheet of paper, but a hole, like a hole in the yard that the dog had dug.
The hole took up the left half of the Major’s face. His eye protruded out without any bones to support it. But it was a clean hole, shored up inside, and smooth.
I noticed the Major, Holder by name, Army by service, when I was sent over to him.
I’d been queuing with thousands of others in a writhing river of uniformed personnel. We were preparing to go. I don’t know where. Dressed for battle, I was geared up. I, oddly, was the only one with a helmet. I’d brought my own. Others awaited someone to issue them a helmet, and many were complimentary of me that I’d had the foresight to bring my own helmet.
We finally started moving. I was impatient, as I always am. Irritation grew as I awaited movement and direction. Someone from the middle of people called, “You, with the helmet. Where you going?”
Figuring he meant me, the question and tone pushed my buttons. I was instantly pissed. Shoving through the stream, which rapidly made way for me, I went to the man who called, and stated in a hard voice – the one my teams knew so well from me – “I’m Master Sergeant Seidel.”
The man beamed at me. “Good. Here.” He thrust a piece of paper in my hand. “Take this and go over there.”
Mollified, but puzzled, I did as bid after a moment, and discovered myself in a waiting area. That’s where I met the tall and slender, good-humored Major Holder. Gray-haired and lightly tanned, he wore green fatigues and had no gear, but he was in charge of something. He addressed me, telling me to wait. I wanted to know what I was waiting for, but he turned away.
Others arrived. They began complaining about the impositions they were facing, like me, bothered by the long wait, lack of activity, and general chaos. They started complaining about how bad they had it, noting small injuries, injustices, and frustration.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked them. “There’s a man over here who’s missing half of his face from this war. He’s not complaining.”
They were, of course, words that chastised me, too. But Major Holder, always patient and good-humored, turned and said, “Don’t worry. It’s nothing at all.”