A Heart Split For Two

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Chapter 2 – The Fallout

After a couple of days for charges to be formally pressed against both Sergeants, they’re shipped off to Kabul. News of what went down spreads like wildfire giving the impression that both men are heroes rather than criminals. By the time the committee of NATO officers arrives to deliberate the case, the JAG representative assigned to the case begins to break things down.

“I’ve been trying to hammer out a deal, but there are people here who want your heads to roll and examples to be made. We have sympathizers for the so-called ‘freedom fighters’ here to represent their case on behalf of the new Iraqi government’s ever-changing hands. I’m not going to lie; they’re requesting the death sentence by beheading.” Major Nance mentions in her first briefing with her clients.

“I won’t lie that we were told to stand down. I won’t deny that we acted out of impulse, but I won’t stand for being told that we killed innocent men. They raped and killed an American soldier. One of our sisters in combat, who wasn’t even armed, or a threat to them. Bring it on because I swear, I’ll fight every one of them!” Sergeant Cofield says in a harsh tone.

With her eyes clenched shut, Major Nance begins to sway her head back and forth.

“To the soldiers all around this country and our NATO support, you’re both deemed heroes. Let’s hope it’s enough to persuade the judge and jury of this.” She pauses and looks over to Sergeant Mitchell. “Jordan, you’re awfully silent over there. Anything to say or ask me?”

A couple of deep breaths later, Jordan makes a demand.

“How’s the kid doing that was shot up? I know he was bad off; please tell me he’s still alive.”

“Last I heard, Mr. Dubois was touch and go for a minute, but he’ll pull through. He is definitely one tough kid if you ask me.”

Once he learns that Cory is safe, Jordan relaxes in the seat. Able to feel like he can breathe again, the sight of Sabrina lingers inside his mind.

“They raped and killed that poor woman. She was about our age Major. I don’t feel bad about killing those fucking monsters. Please make sure that girl gets due diligence for her service. She didn’t ask to be murdered in cold blood.”

“You have my word, Sergeant Mitchell. I will. The family has been notified and awaits her body to be returned home for a proper burial. It makes me sick inside hearing what they did to her. Which is why I will be fighting for both of you.” Major Nance admits holding her hands over her stomach.

Within a few hours, the duo’s escorted in handcuffs down to the chambers where their hearing will occur. The new NATO command compound’s bright lights leave no impression on the men as they’re cheered by fellow American and British soldiers.

Inside the chambers, they see a four-foot-high podium with a Major General of the US Army standing behind it. The General stands there at rest position with a stern look on his face. Once the Sergeants are told to be seated, the hearing begins.

“Take this note, here on May Twenty-fifth. We are here to discuss the actions of Sergeant Lawrence Cofield and Sergeant Jordan Mitchell. Both US Army Military Police. Charges against them consist of the following: failure to follow a direct order given by a superior officer, negligence of life of Iraqi civilians, and conspiracy of murder on Major Sabrina Whitton. How do your client’s plea, Major Nance?”

“Major General Bush, both of my clients agree to guilty of disobeying orders. They both claim innocent over the other charge’s sir. They merely assisted in the apprehension of several Taliban fighters.” The Major pleads in their favor.

“Very well, let the record reflect the charge of disobeying a superior officer of guilty. Meanwhile, the charges of such other events will be deliberated amongst the Senior Leadership Council and myself. Until such time we are going into a continuance. Sergeants Cofield and Mitchell, please rise, gentlemen.” The General commands in a bold voice.

“You are to be held here in custody until such time as the findings can be delivered. A team has been dispatched for the testimony of the Marines sent to the CSH unit. Also, JAG and NATO representatives will collect evidence and testimonies from all those who were held hostage in this event. The Iraqi regime has demanded you be handed over to them for charges. I can say rest assured that will not happen. Charges are pending from the investigation results, and until the conclusion is sitting in front of me, you will remain here under heavy supervision from NATO forces. Counselor, you and your clients are dismissed until all records are collected, and a verdict has been rendered.” He explains while escorted to a holding cell out of sight from the NATO soldiers’ general assembly.

Back in their holding cell, they sit around looking at the walls with barely a word said since they were taken into custody.

“So, I guess since we’re going to be stuck in here for a hot minute. We might as well get to know each other.” Sergeant Cofield suggests as he turns his attention to Sergeant Mitchell.

“I guess we should; I mean, it has to be better than watching paint dry,” Jordan admits taking in the scent of the freshly painted walls of the NATO command center.

After a deep inhale of his own, Lawrence takes a glance around the cell and gets to his feet.

“We’re screwed, man, no doubt about it. The way the General addressed us is like how we should feel about being placed in front of a firing squad. I have two kids back in Oregon and an ex-wife who is one t-total bitch.” Lawrence begins and rests his shoulder against the wall.

“Sounds like fun. I’ve never even had a serious relationship. I’m kind of a hump ’em and dump ’em kind of guy, two, maybe three dates tops. Once I get back home to Georgia, my mother will badger me about coming to work with her. It’s a funky little place that makes contact lenses called BRASS Eye Care.” Jordan begins his long-winded explanation with a bit of an insight into his life.

Lawrence gives a sarcastic look and laughs but refuses to crack a smile when Jordan continues.

“Yeah, but Lawrence, I mean really, why not Larry or use your middle name. You sound like an old man.”

“I’d rather not go back through the teasement and belittling from others. You know Gay-ary, Larry Fairy, and such, which always got me into fights. I’ll stick with being called an old man. Anywho, at least you have goals and objectives and shit.”

All Jordan can do is shrug his shoulders and leans back, trying to get comfortable on his elbows.

“It’s a boring ass job, and doing this has been a dream come true. If we get sentenced to Leavenworth, we’ll only be able to work shitty-ass construction jobs, or worse- McDonald’s grill.”

Both men give a hard gulp, and Jordan tugs at his shirt collar. The look of concern on their faces reads of regret. They continue talking for a few hours until they’re served lunch in their cell.

“Lunch gentlemen, Beef Stromboli with a Chef Salad and Electrolyte water.” The Private from the kitchen hands over then leaves the cell.

In no time, they scarf down lunch and return to discussing their plans if they get out of their predicament.

“Jordan, I swear if we get out of this, I’m going back to college. Won’t be able to become a police officer, but I could become a paralegal, or maybe an attorney.”

“Not me, if I can, I’m going into something to save lives and not take lives anymore. I’m going to become a paramedic. It’s a fast-paced kind of lifestyle, and I want to live in Atlanta.” Jordan says with a smile on his face thinking about the chance to head home to fulfill a new dream.

The tension in the building continues to swell. Not only has word spread throughout the bases and camps in Iraq, but American National News Network has done a couple of special reports. The country sees Lawrence and Jordan as heroes. The headlines are placing pressure on the committee to make a hasty decision.

“I say, ole boy. These lads didn’t do anything wrong outside of breaking the chain of command. What’s say we give them a slap on the wrist and an Article 15 with two weeks in the brig.” A NATO command officer proposes.

“They can’t get off that easily, and they can’t just walk away. Although I’m with you that there isn’t much here to punish them, we must set an example. I’m not sure of what, but we’ll buy time by having them be cross-examined. Kill any type of hope that this type of insubordination will not and cannot be tolerated. A slap on the wrist isn’t enough, but I have a few ideas.” General Bush clarifies as he huffs a drawn-out breath, concerned to avoid an international incident.

“Kiddy gloves then, I say kiddy gloves as we continue negotiations with the Iraqi regime. It’s going to be a long process.” Commander Smithe admits with a long-expression etched on his elderly face.

Over the next few weeks, heated discussions go back and forth with the Iraq government officials while General Bush keeps up the façade of a court-martial. Both Lawrence and Jordan are left in the dark along with the American mainstream media. It’s Hell on the leadership team to buy time without giving in to other demands. The Iraqi regime decides to let go of the charges in exchange for Iraq forces being released from NATO prison camps. It’s a decision that wasn’t made easily, but one that keeps two American soldiers from potential backlash and be sent home.

It’s early in the morning when the final day of the court-martial trial begins. The Sergeants are once again escorted down to trial, where they see plenty of reporters and their JAG representative present for the final hearing and verdict.

“Please rise as the honorable General Bush presides in the courtroom.” One of MP’s calls out as everyone in military uniform stands at attention for the Major General.

“You may be seated, counselor; you may approach the jury to make a closing statement on behalf of your clients.” He says and shifts in his seat.

Major Nance gets to her feet and turns to address the jury. She’s unaware that things in play behind the scenes are about to be played out.

“My fellow officers and NATO representatives, what we have here is an unfortunate set of events. This case, I believe, still has no merit for any serious course of action. A young and bright officer was murdered, and these two men did what they were trained to do, and that preserves life. The first lesson any soldier entering the United States armed forces learns. Remember that please when you reach your verdict.” She pleads with tears in her eyes to work up some sympathy points with anyone with a soft heart.

“Thank you, Major, you may be seated. I also understand that we have a representative from the Iraq Government. To that representative, you now have the floor.” General Bush calls out.

A tall, slender man dressed in traditional Iraqi clothes makes his way to the floor to address the court-martial.

“Thank you, Mr. General Bush, gentlemen of the court, I say unto you today that my government has appointed me with grace to say on behave of our people, thank you. Thank you for honoring such a new process to our lands. You two men there, please, please stand and listen to me.” He begins motioning for Jordan and Lawrence to rise to their feet.

“There are many in my country who believe that you are murderers to the sons of Allah. I say, though, there are us that want to thank you for wiping out these men who do not take the word of my God to theirs. They do not speak for us who believe that life will improve, and for your good deeds, I say on behalf of my countrymen I say thank you. That is all I have to say.”

He doesn’t waste time exiting the courtroom and the building. Back inside, everyone is astounded to hear the kind words as there are still protestors outside throwing rocks at the building and scream in their native tongue.

“Well, I must say that was unprecedented, and to the jury, you may be excused to deliberate your verdict.” General Bush mentions as the jury leaves the courtroom.

“Gentlemen, this shouldn’t take long at all. With the Iraqi government pulling their stake from the charges, all that’s left is the failure to follow a direct order and endangering fellow unarmed soldiers.” Major Nance explains with enthusiasm to her voice.

“Still doesn’t matter; they’re going to kick us out with a dishonorable discharge at best. What kind of future could we have for being dishonorably discharged?” Sergeant Cofield comments to Major Nance with a scowl.

“I wish I could answer that, Sergeant, but I can’t. All we can do is wait to see what they decide. Then the General will meet with the committee to render the final verdict. Right now, they’re just trying to figure out how bad they want to piss off the Marines you took glory from in that firefight. You two got the drop on the hostage-takers while they were pinned down. Ghost Recon teams don’t like being shown up.”

They sit there for about three hours before the jury returns—the General motions for the Major and the two Sergeants to get to their feet.

“Court Martial committee, have you reached a verdict on the charges?” General Bush asks.

A Sergeant Major gets to her feet to reveal the fate of Jordan and Lawrence.

“We have General, and we find the defendants guilty on the charges of disobeying the direct orders of a senior officer and endangering those in the line of fire.”

“Thank you, Sergeant Major. We will debate formal punishment shortly. Sergeants Cofield and Mitchell, you are dismissed back your holding cell until further notice.” The General orders as MP’s approach and guides them back to the holding quarters.

Their JAG representative remains behind, and once the chamber doors are closed, they begin debating what to do with the two Sergeants. It’s a debate that spends the rest of the afternoon. The conclusion will be a surprise.

“Sergeant Cofield, Sergeant Mitchell, on your feet, Major Nance is here.” One of the MP’s announces when she stops in front of the door.

“Ma’am, permission to speak freely, ma’am.” The MP requests looking straight ahead.

“Granted.”

He turns to Lawrence and Jordan.

“Sergeants, may God be with you, and we have supported you. We believe in what you did to protect our own.” He turns to both men and salutes them until Major Nance lays her hand upon his shoulder.

“Very admirable, Corporal, but I need to get them back down to the General. If you would be so kind as to please escort them down for me. Gentlemen, I’ll be there in a matter of moments. I just need to collect myself as I can’t believe it…” she pauses to reflect momentarily.

Jordan gives a prolonged sigh and follows behind Lawrence as they make their way back to the chamber where the General awaits them alone. It’s only a few more minutes until the Major joins and takes her place between them.

“It’s days like these that make this job one of the most difficult in my historic career—a career which started as a Private in the US Army at the tail end of Vietnam. I’ve pushed and clawed my way to the top over many, many years. Sadly, that won’t be the case for either of you as the committee, and I must set an example. In forty-eight hours, you’re both free men as the result of a General Discharge. With the possibility of a petition to turn it into an Honorable Discharge barring a board decision in Arlington. That’s all that’s left to say, thank you for your time as soldiers, but in two days, your services are no longer required. We are at last and finally adjourned!” The General explains.

Jordan and Lawrence stand there, unable to speak. They stare at the General until he vanishes. Major Nance puts a hand on their shoulder.

“Punishment suits the crime Sergeants, and now you don’t lose out on anything at home. Veterans benefits aren’t possible with this discharge at first, but you’re going home.”

Together, they exit the chambers and approach a makeshift podium to address the media about the news, sending waves of relief across the country to those tuned to this story.

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