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For the powerful, crimes are those committed by others.


In the blistering heat of Iraq, Clover found herself embroiled in a nightmarish dance orchestrated by REMFs, those distant decision-makers ensconced in the comfort of their Florida Headquarters. Her company, a band of comrades weathered by the harsh realities of war, teetered on the brink of annihilation due to the incompetence emanating from the rear echelons. Lousy intelligence and misguided orders trickled down like a toxic cascade, transforming the battlefield into a chaotic tableau of confusion. Clover's frustration seethed as she witnessed the devastating consequences of decisions made by those who had never felt the scorching desert winds or heard the dissonant symphony of gunfire or the repercussions of random car bombs. In the unforgiving crucible of war, the chasm between the front lines and REMFs became glaringly apparent, leaving Clover to grapple with the fallout of decisions made far from the bombed-out buildings of Tall Afar, where her comrades bled and died.


General Eisenhower's quote kept coming back to her: "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." Clover thought, what the Hell are we doing here?


The Doctor jolted Clover out of her dream world by tending to her care. She had relived the Tall Afar battle hundreds of times in her dreams and couldn't shake it. All her attempts to save her unit ended in disaster and her mistakes were laid open for all to see and the crows to feed upon. She was hit by shrapnel in her arms, chest, and face; however, she lived while the rest of her unit paid the ultimate price for serving their country. Clover thought, "There was no reason to be in Iraq alone in the small village of Tall Afar. Why was this small town so crucial that the HQ would risk an entire platoon with no support?"


That was over 12 years ago, and she was getting close to the date she could retire. However, the new military found every excuse to promote her not on her outstanding combat record but because of those 'hidden' things of the past that were now worn as a badge of honor, not by her but by the same REMF that tried to kill her just a few years ago in Iraq. Right before she was involuntarily separated for not getting promoted to Major, HQ found clerical errors in several Black, Female, Lesbian records, and her promotion to Major was made retroactive. Clover was now Lieutenant Colonel promotable with a choice: take the promotion and stay another three years or get out as a Major with 20 years of honorable service. The nightmares of Iraq still haunted her, and she continued to search for the actual mission that got her platoon killed. The only way she could get answers was to stay in and keep searching, knowing she had already been given a final warning to "Let it Go." 


Clover found herself at the post personnel office going through her records page by page, trying to determine whether to stay or go. She loved the Army and the sense of family it gave her. Then something caught her eye on the pages before her, 'Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.' She thought, "I was never awarded a DSC?" She quickly looked for the DSC written award citation and found a single word, 'Classified.' Just then, the civilian personnel clerk returned to the room and asked Clover, "Do you need help?" Clover replied, "Where would I find my DSC citation if it is classified?" The clerk, without hesitation, said, "Follow me," leading Clover to a secure room full of classified equipment, sat at one of the computer stations, logged in, and started typing. Clover stood behind her, watching every key click. The clerk stopped suddenly and flushed. Turning to Clover, saying, "Do you know what 'Valiant Code' is?" Clover shook her head no. Without shutting down the workstation, the panicked clerk jumped up and said, "I'll be right back!"


Clover waited for the clerk to leave the room, knowing the clerk had violated every security policy on the books. Clover was not surprised because of the continuous lowering of hiring standards. Clover took the opportunity to look at the files on the computer screen and her DSC citation. While looking at her citation, Clover noticed the Warring Notice in the upper ring-hand corner of the page, 'STOP, contact CID Immediately!' Clover got up and looked out the secure room door and through the large office window into the adjacent parking lot. What she saw brought chills down her spine. There was a security detail getting ready to mount an assault. She knew it was her they were after. Clover froze. What was she going to do? She already had her last warning. Just then, the classified phone next to the computer rang. Clover closed the door and glowered at the phone as if it would attack her. She slowly picked up the handset and said, "Hello?"


Clover heard a strong male voice saying, "Hello, Major; I need you to listen to me carefully if you are to survive this encounter. Follow my directions without modification." Clover listened intently without interruption and then slowly hung up the phone. When the security team barged into the computer room three minutes later, Clover was sitting in a chair at the back of the room reading a Computer magazine. The man in the lead of the five-person detail was dressed in an all-black uniform with no markings except his name, Smith, and he looked like a hitman from the movies. As Smith looked around the room, he noticed everything was in perfect order: the computer was locked, the clerk's ID card was not in the reader, and there were no unauthorized electronics. Clover smiled at Smith and said, "Is everything alright?" Smith escorted Clover out of the room without saying a word and led her to the out-processing section. Clover didn't question the action.


As Clover left the building as a retired Major, she had a strange feeling of relief, anguish, and apprehension. Standing in the parking lot, she had no idea what she would do next. She did find a significant clue about her failed mission in Iraq; however, she had no idea where to start or what to do next. Even more puzzling, who was on that secure phone, how he knew so much about her, and what she should do next.

Just then, a Black SUV pulled up in front of her. Following the last direction, she entered the SUV and closed the door. Sitting quietly in the back of the SUV, she thought of her earlier session with the civilian shrink she was forced to go to because she was obsessed with that failed Iraqi mission. The shrink told her she needed to; "Get over it."


Clover was surprised by her response to the shrink; "Trauma isn't just someone else's narrative; it's all our narratives. Whether you know it or not, it's everybody's tale. We might have figured out how to shove it down deep, but that doesn't mean it is gone. It's lingering inside your mind and never turns off, pulling the strings of how we act and react. We find relief only when we face it head-on, acknowledge it for what it is, and deliberately decide to unravel its hold. There isn't much of a choice for veterans like me – we're pushed to bury it deep. Straying from that path isn't an option; the system will destroy us and never look back." The system had just destroyed Clover, so the REMF believed.


*REMF (plural REMFs) (slang, US, UK, military) Initialism of rear-echelon motherfucker; a soldier far from the front line, especially during the Vietnam War.

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