Scenario: A soldier returns home to surprise his daughter at school.
Exercise: Write about this scene from three different points of view.
Challenge (if you dare): Post the results in the comments section or on your own platform, be it social media or a website.
I saw him stride into the commons, wearing his uniform as if it was something to be proud of. That’s what they drill into their heads, isn’t it: be proud to kill for your country, die for your country. That’s what they want you to believe. But each soldier is just a pawn on the battlefield. All that noble crap is a ruse to keep them fighting. Man, I should stop thinking like that. People could hurt me for it.
His green fatigues were crisp; they had just been cleaned for his return home. I wonder how much foreign blood and dirt had stained his sleeves only days ago. What I didn’t get was why he was here. High school recruiters had come by weeks ago. Heh, the dean nearly suspended me for spitting in a marine’s face. I’d spit in this guy’s face, too, but he wasn’t worth the effort to stand up and abandon my lunch.
Suddenly, a scream erupted from the far side of the commons, and the place turned absolutely silent. A girl in my history class leapt out of her seat and dashed towards the man. He spread his arms wide and they embraced. Every single person in the room felt compelled to applaud this act; quite a few people stood up. I, of course, abstained. A couple people around me shot the dirtiest look I had ever seen in my direction. I didn’t expect them to understand how I felt right now, how jealous I was of this moment. At least this girl’s father returned home from war.
The soldier walked in, and I hoped for a second that it was him, coming to surprise me just like I’ve dreamed for six months. I only caught a glance of him before noise erupted from the east side of the commons. A group of kids were raising their voices, standing up. They managed to distract me from the soldier. I didn’t want the distraction. I wanted to think about him, to be held in his arms again.
I risked a glance back towards the soldier, in full uniform. They all look the same from afar. I hoped it was him. The kids were raising their voices, inadvertently demanding my attention, though they couldn’t hope to fully claim it in that moment.
When the girl screamed, I turned away from the food fight about to break out and saw a girl from one of my Freshman English classes last year sprinting towards a soldier in the commons. The tears in both their eyes brought tears to my eyes. I brushed my left hand across my face to catch the tears, and the ring brushed across my cheek.
My husband’s been in Afghanistan. He’s a captain of a special infantry unit. Every day after I watch the six o’clock news, I can’t help but call him, hoping he’ll pick up, that nothing’s happened to him. The constant worry, the tension in my stomach, it makes me sick. I want him home. I want him to whisper into my ear like he did the night before he left.
The two embraced, and the room erupted in applause. I swore I could hear one of them faintly whispering “I missed you.” I didn’t try to hold tears back that time. There was no chance.
He came into the front office an hour before the school day officially started, just like he’d planned. I had no idea it was happening. The teacher who planned it all filled me in on the details later. He’d been home for a week already, but he really wanted to surprise his daughter. He’d been deployed for twenty-four months, and now that he was home he was retiring from active service. It reminds me of my homecoming years ago.
I was in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Just a lowly Private shipped out after basic training. I wasn’t there for long; they sent me all over the world (I won’t recount all the details) but I was gone for fifteen months. I had a girl back home, too, and letters sometimes took weeks to reach their destination. I was never in one place long enough to use one reliable phone number. The more we wrote, the closer we grew together. I knew about three months into my deployment what I wanted to do. The moment I stepped onto U.S. soil and saw Kathleen, I got down on one knee and asked her. We’ve been together ever since.
I wish I could have been there for the reunion itself. As principal of the school, I had other matters to attend to. I was in meetings all morning, but around lunch I heard the applause. In the minutes between my lunch and a budget meeting, I stepped into the commons to a standing ovation for the soldier and his daughter, reunited at last. It was moments like these that I was proud to have served my country.