Come Home Soon – Arden Henley
Braden Stantz

“That land-mine blew up one of ours!” Bullets pinged off the metal shell of the tank as explosives blew craters in the surrounding area. But, through the dangers of shrapnel and oncoming gunfire, the Mark IV Landship tank kept pushing towards the German line. The name of this tank was Blackjack, with its scrappy crew consisting of 4 British soldiers: Jack, the grizzled veteran who had been fighting the Great War for the past 4 years who was the captain of the crew. Harry, a pessimistic man in his early 20’s who was responsible for tending to the functionality of the tank. Oliver, the extremely young but timid man who tended to the weapons on the tank.George, the driver who had previously been a chauffeur before he had been brought into the war. They had been deployed to push east on a counterattack towards the advancing German line in the Second Battle of the Marne.

The tanks were sent in as the first wave to clear a path for the infantry. As the commander blew the whistle, the rumble of the tanks moving forward broke the silence of the eerily calm battlefield. Soon, the bark of machine guns and booming of field guns rained down from the German Defensive Line down onto the advancing counterattackers. As bodies fell and metal burst into many different pieces, the British approach didn’t stop. At the head of the charge was Blackjack, until one of the tracks was suddenly blown off, immobilizing the tank.

“Go fix the track! Without it we’re sitting ducks!” George directed towards Harry. Harry, not too pleased with the idea of having to get out of the tank, protested, “Are you insane? That’s a death wish!” Jack barked back at Harry, “ This is what you signed up for, now go fix the track! That’s an order!” Harry clambered out of the tank, keeping his head down as bullets whizzed past his ears. “Shit.” Harry exclaimed, “Oliver! I forgot my tool kit! Come bring it out to me.” Oliver grabbed the tools and peaked out of the side of the tank. Suddenly, Oliver drops the tool box as a bullet lodged itself in his chest. His body fell lifelessly into the mud as Harry grabbed the tools in a panic and repaired the track. As he climbed back into the tank, Harry caught George on his way out frantically yelling, “OLIVER!” Harry grabbed him before he could climb out, “He’s gone, George! We have to keep moving!”

George hopped back into the driver’s seat and proceeded to push forward into the German foothold. Once they broke through into the German frontline, German troops started to pour out of bunkers and started to charge towards Blackjack. George, panicked and afraid, cried out, “There’s too many of them! We can’t take them all!” Jack searched the surrounding area and spotted a German bunker abandoned as the Germans had been pushed deeper into their territory. “You boys take these guns and hold out in that bunker until our second wave can push through. I’ll take the Germans from here.” He handed them two Lee-Enfield rifles as he pulled a grenade from his own belt and kept it in his hand. Harry looked up at Jack, “But sir-” Jack cut him off before he was finished, “No ‘but’s! Do as you are ordered!” Harry looked up at him one last time before he and George sprinted to the abandoned bunker. They solemnly watched as Germans started to overrun the tank. An instant later, the two soldiers watched as Blackjack went up in flames.

George sat and stared at the floor, the horrors of war reflected in the look on his face. Harry picked him up off the floor, “come on, we have a battle to win. There will be more of them coming soon.” Each soldier picked up their rifle and stood at the door, waiting for the next wave of German troops to come surging in. George, a hopeless expression across his face, looked up at Harry, “I can’t do this anymore. We’re gonna die here.” “Pull yourself together George. We’re not gonna make it out of here with that attitude.” As the words came out of Harry’s mouth, two sets of footsteps approached the bunker. “They’re here, be ready to fire,” Harry whispered to George, trying not to alert the advancing soldiers. As soon as the footsteps entered the door, each man took aim at their target, Harry hitting his target in the torso, while George had his target in his sights but froze. The German soldier took advantage of this and knocked George’s rifle out of his hand and wrestled with him on the floor. Harry ran over to the two, knocking the soldier unconscious. Relieved, both British soldiers took a deep breath and Harry extended a hand to George. But at that moment,time stopped when a German bayonet plunged through Harry’s back and out his chest. George watched in terror as Harry fell to the ground, struggling to breath. At that same moment, George took the rifle which he had dropped earlier and this time, pulled the trigger. The bullet hit the German soldier in the stomach as he hunched over in pain. George, in a fit of rage, finished the job by putting a bullet in the German’s head. He then ran over to Harry and picked him up in his arms.

“Don’t die on me! Hang in there,” George said, tears rolling down his cheeks. Harry’s labored breathing only made this harder for George, as they both knew how this was going to end. “It’s ok. I’m ready to go. I feel that I died honorably for my king and country.” George could barely let out a response, all he could say was “please don’t die on me,” over and over until eventually Harry stopped him. “I’m proud of you George.” Those were Harry’s last words before he let out one last breath. As the voices of the second wave of British soldiers entered the stronghold, George looked down at his hands. They were covered in the blood of his lost brothers. Yes, he may have won the day, but was it worth all that he lost?