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Monday, December 20, 2006.-- The huge Mastiff armored ambulance vehicle rolled slowly away from
Camp Bastion at 6:00 am. This was not just another Combat Logistic Patrol. All over Helmand and
Kandahar provinces in the south the war was heating up now and soldiers were being killed at a faster
pace.

Corporal Robert Allen Montgomery was on guard against enemy action directed against the ambulance
corps. His team supplied their colleagues at FOBs with food, ammo, medical kits, and post; so his was a
very important group of specialized soldiers. His was also a dangerous job due to IEDs.

It was not unusual that the soldiers of Camp Bastion had to contend with occasional small arms fire,
rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), and improvised explosive device (IED) threats, so the presence of an
ambulance vehicle was essential. And this morning was no exception. Today his mission was to assist with
the extraction of dead American and Afghan soldiers.

Today he would be driving a battlefield ambulance engaged in taking patients, many who had serious
traumatic conditions, from the medical helicopters to the emergency department of the field hospital.

More than once now, he had been exposed to the worst injuries experienced by UK, US, Danish and
Afghan troops that were taken off the helicopters, so the initial nausea he had experienced on his first
outing was gradually beginning to fade. He had come to terms with a bad death on more than one occasion.
He had seen the worst of it and gone on.

"It is an eye-opener to the realities of war and the effects it can have on people's lives. I was initially
concerned about how I would react to seeing such things. The explosions were horrific. But it was the body
bags that were most troubling. Sometimes we searched for hours just to find a single piece to identify a
soldier before the remains could be transferred to Operations for shipping home. Not even a Michael
Angelo could have pieced together the missing parts. So some of the bags had just a single body part.
Those guys and gals in OPCOM are a special bread.

Then after a while I was OK when I did see injured patients. I am now comfortable carrying out my
duties. It is really fulfilling to know that I play a key role in getting critically wounded soldiers to urgently
needed specialist medical care. Actually, I like getting sucked into the work now and, although it may
seem strange to people back home, I am beginning to like the danger because I love the adrenaline rush!"
he had written to his wife and four-year-old son in his last letter.

Then came the part that allowed fear to creep into Kathleen’s heart. “I have also driven local Afghan
civilians, who are sometimes treated in the hospital, out of Camp Bastion so they could go home. To do so,
I have to drive them to the foot of the mountains around Kandahar. It can be difficult communicating with
the Afghans due to obvious language difficulties, but it gives me valuable insight into their culture and
customs," he had continued on, not realizing how these words might frighten his wife.

The roads into the mountains are covered with IEDs, Kathleen had learned from some of the newspapers
and an occasional TV report by Fox News covering the war in Afghanistan. Then she had seen that report
about the British soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan while driving a Vector
ambulance shortly after helping to save the life of a colleague.

The Brit’s commanding officer had made the report just yesterday: Lance Corporal Albert Mason
Nottingham, 25, of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was killed returning to base near Kajaki
on Tuesday after helping to evacuate a critically injured soldier by helicopter.

He was attached to 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment. Though his main job was  armorer—
maintaining and repairing weapons—he had volunteered for extra duties as an ambulance driver. "He died
helping others when he could have taken an easier path," his commander, Lieutenant Colonel Joe Clark,
had said.

Quartermaster Sergeant Martin Black had added: "A measure of his skill and determination was when, in
the middle of a firefight with the Taliban, he had stripped down a .50 caliber machine gun that was failing
to fire and got it working again for his friends."

“And so now he is dead. Great! Why do they have to do that?” Kathleen muttered aloud. “Why can’t they
just do their job and leave the heroics to someone else? Heroes are for the infantry, not ambulance
drivers. God, just get home safely. Please!”  

Bobby asked his mother what an IED was.

“It is an improvised explosive device,” Kathleen said. And then she had to explain improvised, explosive,
and device. “So, you see, Daddy has to be very careful not to let his ambulance roll over one. Because if it
does, there is a big explosion and the pictures of where Daddy is are scattered all over. So then, it is Daddy’
s job to try to put the pieces of the pictures back together again.”

“Like Humpty Dumpty?” Bobby asked.

“A little,” Kathleen agreed, pleased that Bobby could make such a quick association to something familiar
to him like one of his favorite nursery rhymes.

“Does Daddy put the soldiers back together again?” Bobby asked.

“Sometimes. Sometimes he can. But not always,” Kathleen said. “Sometimes it takes really special people
to put the soldiers back together again. Sorta like an artist who puts together the pieces of a beautiful
picture.”

“Oh.”

On Sunday, Robert Allen Montgomery placed an overseas cell phone call to his wife. It was a good thing to
do. Their conversation covered all the small talk expected of separated spouses. Especially those
separated by time and geography and bad weather and . . . war. Kathleen begged him not to volunteer for
any extra duties and to come home soon.

When he talked with little Bobby, he was surprised when Bobby asked how Humpty Dumpty was. It had
been two years now. Bobby had been only two years old when Corporal Montgomery re-upped for a
second tour in Afghanistan. After reassuring his son that Humpty was as good as to be expected, Robert
Sr. asked why Humpty was such a cause for concern.

“Did you put him back together again?” Bobby asked.

“As best I could,” Robert Sr. answered, coping with a lot more now than he wanted to; and then he asked
to talk to Mommy again.

“What is that all about” he asked Kathleen.

“It was all I could think of to explain the effects of an IED,” Kathleen said. “It’s hard here without you . . .”

In the background, Corporal Robert Allen Montgomery could hear his son yelling. “Dad . . . D-a-a-a-d. Are
you an artist?”

                                             ©
2016 Fred McIntire [All Rights Reserved]
                                               
NEW REVIEWS:  A real life, real time story right from today's headlines. There are familiar pictures
here, recognizable by all veterans of foreign wars. The interactions between father, mother, and son via
letters and today's cell phones are most realistic.  Thanks, Mr. McIntire, for sharing it with us at Literary
Masters,Inc. ****__Jean Ann Morgan.

Fred McIntire really knows how to get the adrenalin flowing. Nothing scarier in writing than tales from
the battlefield and  the monsters that can torment a spouse from a distance. Thanks for an easy-to-read
and enjoyable piece, Fred. ****__ Captain Apple Jack.

I loved the little boy's questions. Particularly the one at the end. It never ceases to amaze me just how
smart a four-year-old can be. Well written, well conceived, and yes, right out of today's headlines. Good
job, Fred. Give us another. *****__John E. Cashwell.

I think it is awful! This story really brings it home. How much longer is America going to send her sisters
and brothers, daughters and sons, children and grandchildren into unforgivable wars where the people
they are fighting for hate America. Bring them all home! NOW! I think America should just pull out of the
world and let the ungratefuls die. *****__Su Chang-Wu.

The horrors of war are easily left aside, hidden within newspaper, and silenced by the television set left
off, but we can't escape it especially those with loved ones fighting over there. No matter their job, they
are heroes, but all we want is for them to come back home. And your story summarizes all this beautifully
and tragically, reminding us of what we try to ignore. ****__Melissa R. Mendelson
Dad, Are You An Artist?
By Fred McIntire
Sunday, February 7, 2016
Rated
"PG" by the Author.
A son learns about his father's job on the battlefield.
REVIEW STORE: Did you enjoyFred's short story? Please tell him.  CLICK HERE to write a review of
"Dad, Are You An Artist? "