by MAJ Mario Miglietta, USA
Editor’s note: The following short story was written by OCF member MAJ Mario Miglietta, USA. It is based on a story told during an OCF Bible study that he attends. A person in the Bible study told of a Soldier from his battalion who had fallen on hard times, but who found encouragement and hope from a letter he received from his little sister. Mario says he was inspired by that story and wrote about what the Soldier had gone through—”how I imagined the story evolved.”
He had been facing adversity, it seemed, at every waking moment. Too many small failures. Too many wrong words—both said and heard. Too many long days of quiet compliance. Frustration had led him to a crossroads.
Desperately, the Soldier pounded on the metal door of his locker with his fists. “God, are you with me?!” he angrily cried out. To his left and to his right the empty barracks echoed his plea. “Show me a sign. Please. Show me a sign. Answer me. Please. Answer me.”
The neatly organized rows of bunks and lockers sat in silent repose beneath the cold ambience of the fluorescent lights overhead. Dark gray blankets and crisp white sheets, tightly stretched and tucked, left a choke-hold on each bunk. Deep inside he could feel this same choke-hold.
His crying words had jolted the perfection of military order. A few other Soldiers, in a confused curiosity, peaked into the room from a dark distant doorway. Witnesses, they were, to a breaking point. They mumbled among themselves—this is how rumors were born.
And then life went on. It was time for mail call.
Name after name was read. One by one, a fortunate Soldier would advance to collect the thoughts and prayers found in letters and packages sent from home—from a small town in Kansas or from the suburbs of Philadelphia. Fatigue was put aside and the seriousness of regiment was lifted for a moment.
And then the last envelope was casually raised in the air. The Soldier’s name was called.
His envelope was different. It was specially sealed and stamped “damaged”—an acknowledgement and an apology from the United States Postal Service. Folded awkwardly, the letter was stained with fingerprints and ink spots, but its importance was preserved in the sealed clear plastic bag. The battered and bruised envelope had begun its journey from home too long ago. Only today, days before Christmas, did it arrive to the hands it was intended to touch.
The Soldier, shrouded with all his gloom, stepped forward quietly and reached out, almost reluctantly, to the damaged letter that was handed to him. As he walked back to his bunk, he scanned the faces of the other Soldiers who smiled as they sat reading the riveting words of those whom they loved or wanted to love.
He sat on his bunk, carefully peeling away the envelope and pulling out the tattered and folded paper inside. As he straightened the crumpled note and attempted to smooth back the unintended folds of paper, a wedge-shaped area torn from the letter had intersected the neat, hand-written passage of words.
The empty space formed an arrow whose tip pointed to a collection of words—one word on one line and two words on the following line. The rest of the respective sentences had been torn away, leaving the mystery of deciphering what else had been written.
But, at this moment, his mind raced back—back to that moment his fists struck the cold locker door. He could hear the echo of the words he had cried out… “God, are you with me?!” He looked to the tattered letter more carefully and there, at the tip of the arrow, the answer appeared. A wedge-shaped ray of hope piercing the gloom that enshrouded his soul.