The men of Combat! do not belong to me.
The song “Sound the Bugle” does not belong to me either. It belongs to Gavin Greenaway and Trevor Horn and is featured
in the motion picture Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. I am not being
compensated in any tangible way for this endeavor.
my very first attempt at a songfic.
Blame Belle and Jester and their blasted challenge.
There is no plot so don’t go looking for one. Thanks to Jester who kept the motivation going.
sprawled on the cot, shifting restlessly in a vain attempt to find a
comfortable position. His
leg was bandaged from knee to hip, itching him in places he'd rather not
think about. As it
happened, he didn't need surgery. One
of the field docs had yanked out the shrapnel, cleaned the wound and
sent him on to the makeshift hospital.
No evacuation for him. Just
lie around, ogle the nurses and return to the line in a week or so.
He sighed, threw an arm over his eyes and turned as much of his
back to the room as he could.
didn't want to think about anything or anyone.
Especially not his squad. They
were all here or had been. Nelson
had been sent back with an ankle fracture.
He'd return in six weeks with any luck.
Littlejohn and Kirby escaped with little more than cuts and
bruises. Caje had spent a
couple of days recovering from a concussion and a perforated eardrum.
Doc, well, Doc was still there, silent and brooding, resisting
all efforts to send him back to the rear.
a soldier - wounded so I must give up the fight
knew exactly how he felt.
the bugle now
German shells were coming closer now, their observers walking them in at
their leisure. The
Americans had been caught with their pants down, working off faulty
intelligence. Now they were
stuck, with a river at their backs and half the German army right smack
in front of them and sliding their way around the flanks.
Saunders huddled in his foxhole with the radio and his map,
desperately trying to call in some artillery of their own.
leapt into the foxhole headfirst, rolling over one shoulder and coming
up with his Garand at the ready. He
ran the back of one grimy hand over his mouth, panting hard.
no go round the east, Sarge. They've
dug in but good. Third
squad is already taking a beating.
Their medic is dead. Doc
went over to help 'em out."
sergeant looked up sharply, noticing a small trickle of blood wending
its way through the dirt caking his scout's face.
And something else. Fear.
Just how many months had it been since D-Day?
Caje was the backbone of Saunders' squad, the man he could always
depend on to get the job done. The
last time he'd seen this look in the Cajun's eyes was on the beach, a
lifetime ago. If Caje was
this worried, the rest of the guys must be shaking in their boots.
the bugle now - play it just for me
reached out, turning Caje's face to the side, and inspected the source
of the blood. Just a
scratch. He let out the
breath he'd been holding and consulted his map again, giving himself a
moment to pull his chaotic thoughts together.
The radio squawked and he grabbed it, pulling it tightly to his
sir! We've got...no, we
can't....no, sir, it's just...."
He let his arm drop, the radio falling into his lap.
Rolling onto his belly, Saunders worked his way up to the front
of the foxhole, peeking over quickly and then dropping back down.
The Germans were holding their line, just waiting for the shells
to soften up the Americans. He glanced up at Caje, wishing he had better news to impart.
already deployed somewhere else. We're
stuck here. The lieutenant
says we've got to pull back."
He shook his head. "We
try to cross back over that river the Krauts are gonna cut us to
fingers tightened around the rifle, the knuckles turning white with
effort. "We're being
cut to ribbons right now, Sarge."
He looked up as the distinctive whine of a German 88 filled the
down!" Saunders threw
himself flat in the foxhole, one hand curling itself into Caje's jacket
and pulling him down, too. The
concussion shook the earth as the shell blasted into the ground off to
their east, a plume of smoke rising rapidly and spreading over the
entire area, leaving them coughing and gagging.
I can't go on, I can't even start
to his knees, the sergeant pulled his Thompson to his chest, running a
practiced eye over it and brushing off the latest layer of dirt.
Levering one foot under him, he peered out of the foxhole,
preparing himself for a mad dash to the stream bed running perpendicular
to the river. It was dry
this time of year and providing needed shelter to several of first
squad's men. Scooping up
the radio, Saunders nudged Caje with his elbow, signaling the man to
the bugle now...
closely to the distinctive sound of Kirby's B.A.R., the sergeant and
scout crouched, muscles tensed and ready.
A momentary lull in the weapon's roar was immediately filled by
German gunfire. Saunders
held up one hand and then was off running as soon as Kirby recommenced
fire. Zig-zagging across
the grassy marshland, he dove into the gulch, startling Littlejohn who
turned toward him with his rifle at the ready.
Seconds later, Caje thudded at their feet, wide-eyed and
them I don't care...
gotta get outta here! Caje,
Littlejohn, spread the word along the western banks of the river. Kirby, we need a lot of cover fire."
Saunders propped his elbows on a dead log, staring at the
drifting smoke over the eastern edge of the battlefield.
Doc's over there...
knew that somebody would have to cover the retreat.
And he knew that it would fall to his squad. It always did. As
Kirby began firing the B.A.R., Saunders took off running, so hunched
over he almost caught himself in the chin with his knees.
Spreading the word in each foxhole he came to, he felt gratified
to see the men respond to command, even if the command was to pull back.
Runners ran forward into the teeth of the German attack, hoping
to find someone they could rescue, somebody to drag home from what had
ended up a turkey shoot.
not a road I know, that leads to anywhere...
Saunders arrived at the eastern edge of the battle, coughing
continuously in the acrid smoke. He
could no longer tell the foxholes from the shell holes.
Both were filled with bodies both living and dead.
Whole squads were wiped out, their corpses strung out at proper
intervals that didn't help against multiple shells slamming into the
earth one after another.
found Doc working furiously over a kid no older than eighteen, whose
freckles stood out in a face as white as writing paper.
The medic glanced up, catching sight of Saunders, and shook his
head, his blood-covered hands falling in frustrated fists to his thighs.
fightin' a losin' battle here, Sarge.
There's just too many..."
jumped in the foxhole, throwing both the medic and a dazed private with
vacant eyes to the dirt, covering their bodies with his own. The shell struck not fifty feet from them, showering them
with clumps of dirt and debris. Another
thundered down, and then another. The
soldiers huddled in the ground, forcing themselves flatter and flatter.
Over the sound of his own heart pounding in his ears, the
sergeant could hear nothing beyond the devastating howl of the 88s.
Under him, the private trembled, his entire body shaking with
terror. Saunders could feel
him burrowing into the earth, the kid's pointy elbows digging into the
sergeant's belly from time to time.
a light I fear that I will stumble in the dark...
didn't so much as twitch a muscle.
Saunders tried to turn his neck to visualize the medic but the
smoke had turned what was left of the late afternoon to premature night.
He waited a moment longer and then rolled to one side, coming up
on one knee, and managed to get the Thompson in some semblance of
readiness. Squinting at the
shifting shadows drifting across the grassy riverbank, the sergeant saw
no movement whatsoever, German or American.
He turned back to the foxhole just in time to see the young
private take a swing at Doc, knocking the man back on his rear just as
he was climbing to his feet.
have to save him! You...Have...To!"
medic flinched away, hands raised high in astonishment as the kid
brought his M1 to his shoulder, trembling but managing to keep it
pointed in Doc's vicinity. Saunders
was too far away to do anything but shoot the man.
Just yet the thought hadn't crossed his mind.
looked up, blue eyes wide with incomprehension. He shook his head slowly back and forth, pleading with the
kid. "He's dead, he
was bleeding too much, he's too far gone..."
He closed his eyes as the private leveled the rifle, finger
tightening on the trigger.
of the three of them heard the whistling of the incoming shell.
right down and decide not to go on
first he thought his leg was on fire as exquisite pain crawled along his
nerve endings, starting somewhere just below his knee and ending up deep
in his hip. For a few
seconds Saunders just breathed through it, wanting to believe it was
just a dream, just a momentary lapse in his grip on reality.
But the agony grew exponentially, expanding until it eclipsed
everything and he groaned aloud, tears flooding his eyes and spilling
unheeded down his cheeks.
didn't recognize the voice. He
kept his eyes closed, trying to keep his awareness in a place somewhere
deep inside himself, somewhere nobody else could ever go.
Someplace where there was no pain.
voice was more insistent now, carrying an edge of desperation that
tugged at Saunders' innate sense of duty.
He allowed his level of consciousness to rise, just a little.
He became aware of the evening chill and a breeze blowing across
his face. He didn't feel
cold, didn't feel anything but the white hot pain.
But somebody else did, somebody shivering uncontrollably under
his head, an act that seemed to require more energy than he possessed,
Saunders found himself staring at an American dog tag, slung around the
grimy neck of an American GI. The
same GI on whom Saunders was sprawled and on whom Saunders bled freely
from any number of wounds. A
GI whose name the sergeant recognized.
Saunders breathed the nickname out, unaware that he'd spoken
aloud. He levered himself
up on one elbow, immediately rolling awkwardly to one side at the moan
of pain from the medic.
corpsman drew in a deep breath, stopping suddenly as his muscles
complained and spasmed around his chest.
Blue eyes snapped open and fixated on Saunders, pinning him in
place. Doc opened his
mouth, coughing hard and then spoke in the raspy, smoke-filled voice the
sergeant hadn't recognized.
where ya hurt?" He
struggled to sit up, his right arm hugging his rib cage and his left
hanging at an odd angle from his shoulder.
Biting his lower lip hard to stifle a cry of pain, Doc managed to
get to his knees, swaying slightly over his sergeant's prone body.
lacerations from flying shrapnel dotted his exposed skin here and there,
the largest an inch in length along his left cheekbone. A thin sheen of blood covered his face, but none of it looked
too serious. Saunders
sucked in a sigh of relief, staring up into Doc's concerned blue eyes.
think...I think it's my leg, my right leg." He continued to stare up at the medic, the adrenaline rush
initiated by the young private's behavior and fueled by the exploding
shell rapidly dissipating and leaving him tired and trembling.
where's that...kid..." Saunders
tried to get up, looking wildly around.
He flinched away from Doc's firm right hand on his chest, shoving
him back down.
eyes darkened, his face sagging in abject misery. He looked beyond Saunders at something, something that pulled
him as surely as it repelled him. Turning
suddenly away, he vomited into the scant grass, his already shivering
body wracked with tremors. After
a moment he turned back and began rummaging through his medical ruck
with his good hand.
medic shook his head, opening sulfa packets and bandages with his teeth.
dead, Sarge. That shell did
him a favor."
nothing more for me...lead me away
stared at Doc as he sprinkled the powder over the expansive shrapnel
wounds, the medic's eyes as faraway as home and just as illusive.
wouldn't meet Saunders' gaze, keeping his attention on the task at hand.
It was only when it became apparent that he couldn't tie the
bandage off that he sat back on his heels with a sigh, rubbing hard at
his eyes with his good hand. He
seemed surprised at the fresh blood on his fingers, apparently only just
realizing that he was bleeding himself.
I need some help." His
eyes wandered back to the dead private, lighting there for a long moment
and then moving on.
reached down to the bandage but surprised the medic by grabbing his
wrist instead. "Doc,
it's not your fault."
medic yanked his arm away, dropping his chin to his chest, and pressed
hard on his forehead with the palm of his hand.
For a moment he didn't even seem to breathe, then he took a deep
shuddering breath that caused him to yelp in pain and clutch at his
injured ribs. A single tear
tracked through the blood on each cheek, leaving a snail's trail that
glistened in the waning light.
hell it's not, Sarge." He
sniffed loudly, cuffing his nose with the back of his sleeve.
pressed the bandage to his leg. "He
was gonna kill you, Doc. There
was nothing you could do." He
winced, let up on the pressure a little.
medic stared at the dressing, the anguish in his face clearly visible in
his unfocused eyes and the set of his thin lips.
Very slowly he reached out and took the end of the dressing,
sliding it under Saunders' leg and bringing it out the other side.
With the sergeant's help, they managed to tie a snug knot,
tucking the ends under, and added a second bandage.
sat back on his rump, easing the pressure on his tensed legs.
Pain shot up his arm, ping-ponging between elbow and neck before
settling in his shoulder. He tentatively turned his head toward the injured limb but
stopped with a hiss of pain.
sorry, Sarge." His
blue eyes slid closed, the lashes lying thickly on his cheeks, damp with
tears. "I couldn't
save his buddy, I couldn't save him an' I don't know how in hell I'm
gonna get you outta here."
right down and decide not to go on...
throbbing in time to his heartbeat, Saunders struggled to find the
words. He knew the men
talked about his patented pep talks, made jokes about them, but the
sergeant had decided long ago that it was an effective tool of
leadership. Trouble was,
just right now he needed one himself.
And there was nobody to deliver it.
unexpected burst of flares right over their heads caused them both to
duck down, shading their eyes from the unexpected light. All of a sudden it seemed to be raining munitions as the
skies filled with Allied aircraft, all intent on blowing this particular
piece of real estate off the map.
medic rolled to his feet, reaching with his good arm to haul Saunders
flung his arm around Doc's neck, knowing he was hurting him but unable
to do anything else. They
staggered against each other and then found their balance, first one
leaning and then the other as they made their way back to the river.
from on high - somewhere in the distance
blinked, not realizing that he'd actually dozed off. In the three days he'd been in the little hospital, in
reality a bombed out church in some God-forsaken French village, he'd
hardly slept at all. He
carefully turned over, coming face to face with his medic who perched
gingerly on the stool that sat between Saunders' bed and the next.
torso was wrapped securely from waist to armpits and his shoulder was in
an elaborate sling. Apparently
the impact from his flying sergeant had fractured not only his
collarbone but also three ribs. The
doctors said it would be a good four weeks before he could even consider
going back out in the field. Doc
had refused evacuation, saying he'd be able to work in the hospital and
the aid stations. Said he could do just as much one-handed as most did with
who you are...
dark circles under Doc's eyes made him look much older than he was, just
as the tousled hair normally hid under a helmet made him look younger.
Saunders stared at him a moment, never sure which "Doc"
he was talking to. The
older one who'd seen enough blood and death to last a lifetime or the
younger one who was so traumatized by it all that he'd just about shut
down. It didn't matter, of
course, both of them were Doc, a fact for which Saunders was truly
grateful. He owed one of
them his life and the other his perspective.
couldn't understand how they'd all been spared that night.
Third squad - entirely wiped out.
Another fifteen men dead from other units.
But first squad, they were all going to be fine.
Until the next time.
a sigh, Saunders made himself comfortable on his pillow and lay back.
He glanced over at the medic, who gave him a ghost of his usual
grin. But a grin all the
same. He relaxed, running
his fingers through his hair.
okay, Doc, I'm okay." And
for the first time in days, Saunders thought it might be true.
a soldier now, fighting in a battle
the end -