He Will My Shield And Portion Be
He Will My Shield and Portion Be is a story written by Himawari. It ran in Issue 50 at http://s2b2.livejournal.com/287118.html, and is mirrored at http://www.shousetsubangbang.com/mirror/he-will-my-shield-and-portion-be/.
An Air Force chaplain, one of the few Unitarian Universalist chaplains in the USAF, has a very busy Sunday. Deployment is rough.
Dawn over Bagram Airfield was a dull gray. A high ceiling of clouds softened the morning. Dust, that thick Afghan dust that rose from every road and covered every building, tree, and plane, was rising from the paved roads and the dirt paths between buildings. It blurred the outlines of the Hindu Kush rising up in the distance beyond the base and the town, snow-covered and angular against the growing light. Chaplain Aaron Kiko trudged from his quarters up Disney Drive toward the chapel, his booted feet stirring up more dust as he went. The chapel was his, and these were his airmen, at least for the moment.
No connections to other stories and settings, so far.
The second sentence of this story is ten times funnier if you're running the Cloud to Butt Plus extension on Google Chrome that converts cloud-->butt and the cloud-->my butt, etc etc and if you're secretly twelve. Yes, I am twelve, and my combination of professionalism and utterly juvenile humor is strangely suited to describing life while deployed. No, I have never served, and they shouldn't have ever taken me for health reasons and for queer reasons, though they might have taken me anyway for academic reasons, and messed me up even more in the process. When I was thinking about it as a teenager, my choice would probably have been Air Force and to try for an appointment to the Academy. Yes, I felt guilty about that for a number of years, and yes, this story finally worked some of those feelings out for me. I live between an F-15 unit and a C-5 unit, and I love hearing them.
This story is set in May of 2011. It's a few months after Egypt's government was overthrown but before Libya's was, and it's a week or two after the announcement of the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden. On December 20, 2010, the Department of Defense announced that they would be repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, so by May of 2011, commanders were being retrained on how to operate under the new rules, though Congress was still fussing about it. In July 2011, the DOD announced that they would no longer be pursuing any DADT-related discharges or evidence, and stated that September 20, 2011 would be the day the new policy began.
These photos of chaplains in Afghanistan made me think I couldn't make a go of this story, and inspired me to try anyway. And this thirty minute radio documentary about the role of the song "Brothers in Arms" in a variety of conflicts, including its use in a unit memorial much like the one in this story, was the other thing that inspired me to give it a shot. I never did find a piece of lyrics from the song to use as a title, but I tried about half a dozen different ones and wrote a lot of this with that song in my head.
I did a lot of reading up on life at Bagram, and found a lot of videos of what it is like to walk and drive around the base, and what it is like to take cover during indirect fire. Here's someone's tour of their B-hut room . Note the ilovebagram.com sticker on their door. I read i love bagram extensively before writing this, because it's this pithy little trove of details about daily life on base.
It took a while to research what the unit memorial service would entail, because there are many more examples on the internet of Army services, which usually involve the "final roll call" ritual, than Air Force services, though the Air Force does do "final roll call" sometimes, at least in domestic memorial services. I eventually found a PDF intended for religious support teams that detailed the order of events for all the standard services, and it had the kind of simple unit memorial service I describe here, but did I save the link? Nope, sorry. It was more important to indicate how all of these services blur together for Kiko, than to give you the details of what Forbes' comrades said about him. Which I hated, but I killed my darlings and gave you Kiko's perspective and left it at that. Believe it or not, I still like "Amazing Grace," because whatever version we're talking about, the version in my brain is the Ani DiFranco one, and I am jamming along over whatever other version is actually being played.
Sam Smith's Stay With Me kept running through my head as I wrote the dinner scene and the sex. I wrote the sex last, which I don't always do, but sometimes it works out like that. I was writing right up to deadline, and I'm hoping to get the next few stories finished earlier, and have more time for better cleanup.
Kiko really is a Hungarian surname, but I didn't know that until I decided, "Hey! I want to use a surname I heard as a kid, how about this one?" and looked up where it was from. Kiko grew up Catholic and has made the transition to UU pretty damn well. Misajon is kind of a combat helicopter pilot version of one of my boyfriends combined with that hottie Filipino-Canadian boy I hooked up with my first year of college. Misajon grew up Catholic too, and is now more of a cheerful engineer agnostic. I swear that some day I will write a story without an engineer in it, but looking at the future stories I have slated, that's not gonna happen soon. I've been dreaming about what it's gonna be like once Kiko and Misajon are both back in the US and get to fuck in a real bed some place private and off-base again. They're going to be so happy about that.
Serious shout-outs to Kimyō Tabibito for beta-reading and infusions of awesome music as I was hustling to finish this, and to Shukyou for helping me find an imperfect but nicely tidy solution to the awkwardness of writing a love story between two men who mostly refer to each other by their last names. I was also cheered on by aspectabund and Iron Eater for which many thanks! Major props to my significant other r_ness for troubleshooting my aircraft designations and listening to me as I spent a week going "I can't write something for August because work's about to get busy, but I can't stop researching chaplains at Bagram, now what do I do?" Oh and a shoutout I can never say to my coworker who also talked aircraft with me, because when you're asked, "Why are you so interested in aircraft?" by someone at work you can't just say "I'm writing Air Force porn," even if it's God's honest truth and they, having served in the Vietnam era and having a twisted sense of humor themselves, would be amused.
I found the story about the Umali-Behrens wedding on Slate last night, and no, while there are resemblances, I did not know about this when I was writing. (Or if I did, I had forgotten.) I bawled. And now I want to write about that road trip.
There's also a one-year-later update about the Umali-Behrens family. Progress is slow, in families and societies.
- fairyninjas.wordpress.com: "Set in Afghanistan in the near past, a certain minister and his flock of soldiers. Especially one soldier. Very sweet and heartwarming, with a lot of realisticness."