No Ordinary Guy
Thomas Calabrese — There are voices that we only hear in solitude. They echo through the canyons and over mountains in our minds, but grow faint and inaudible when we are no longer alone. Living according to one’s notions of goodness is easy in our own imaginations, but it takes a truly brave person to follow a code of integrity and honor in the face of pressure from a society whose beliefs are in direct conflict. A foolish consistency is peddled by snake charmers and con men and nurtured, embraced and embellished by an uninformed and easily manipulated citizenry. There are flashes of insight, imagination and originality that a mature thinker comes to realize is the path to greatness, rather than an imitation of what everyone believes.
A functioning society calls for a degree of cooperation, but there is a point where conformity takes on the characteristics of oppression and tyranny. The citizens of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany made compromises for their self-preservation, and history has documented how well that turned out. Once you let the monster out of its cage and he gets a taste for blood, carnage, pain and suffering, his appetite only grows more insatiable.
An unthinking conformist will eagerly follow others off the edge of the cliff, never considering the dire consequences of his decision until he hits the ground. A self-reliant person will take responsibility for his own well-being and survival. Bombarded by biased fact and opinions, viewing our world independently and fairly is no easy endeavor, not even for the strongest of heart, mind and body.
Great men have chosen their own paths, stepped up when others have fallen back, attacked when others have retreated. Victories are not meant for the faint of heart and God does not choose cowards to manifest his destinies.
Do these men still exist? This is the story of one such individual. Let’s start at the beginning,
There was a violent and incorrigible hoodlum who spent as much time behind bars as he did outside them. And then there was a young woman who had a nightmarish childhood. Her father was abusive and sadistic and beat her regularly and a mother that dulled the pain of her miserable existence with a variety of mind numbing drugs. There was no worse combination than the union of these two people, a serial victimizer and a perennial victim. To make things worse, they had a baby together. When the man found out about the pregnancy, he severely beat the young woman then abandoned her. She developed serious complications with her pregnancy due to her unhealthy lifestyle and severe beatings. The last words she said before she died were, “Take care of my little guy.”
There was no medical reason as to why the young infant survived, but somehow he was born strong and healthy. Child Protective Services was told that the mother called her baby, Guy, so that is what they put on his birth certificate. They gave him the last name, Smith.
It wasn’t exactly a joyful entrance into the world and over the next 12 years the young boy lived in seven foster homes. When he became a teenager, Guy was placed in a group home where he shared a bedroom with three other boys.
Privacy was a rare commodity in his life so he had to actively seek it out and when it came his way, Guy savored every moment of it. In high school he participated in sports, volunteered for extracurricular activities and worked a part-time job just so he wouldn’t have to go home until it was late at night. Rather than awaken his roommates, Guy would sit in the recliner in the living room. Five or six hours of sleep and he was gone before sunrise to begin the routine again.
While most kids would dread a two mile walk to school, Guy saw it as an opportunity, a chance to be alone. It was one more refuge from his regimented environment where there was always someone telling him what to do. He gained unique insights that eluded others teenagers with close knit families because of his unique situation. Guy determined he would have to make some major changes in his behavior if he wanted to loosen those restrictive ties. The first step was earn the trust of the supervisory personnel in his life, so he went above and beyond what was ever asked of him. This would require a lot a self-reliance and self-determination on Guy’s part. When it came to life, he determined another critical component was essential to happiness, he could take things for granted or take them with gratitude. He chose the latter. Guy remembered a quote he read by legendary coach John Wooden, ‘Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to.’
In high school, he studied hard in the classroom and played even harder on the field. When teachers and coaches talked about putting out 100 per cent effort, Guy didn’t know any other way to do it. He was impervious to peer pressure, saw it as a waste of time and energy. He had no interest in being accepted into the ‘so called’ popular crowd and chose his friends and made his decisions based on his preferences, not by anybody else’s.
One incident comes to mind, there was a party when members of the football team were celebrating a hard fought win against a crosstown rival. Guy had scored three touchdowns and could have basked in the glory of his accomplishments, but chose to fade into the background and let others take the spotlight. A few of the more boisterous players were involved in a drinking game to see who could guzzle a beer the fastest. Ian Palmer, the big defensive tackle turned to Guy who was watching with disinterest and teased, “What’s the matter…you’re scared that I’ll beat you?”
Guy laughed, “Let me see if I got this right…you tell me that I’m scared and that’s supposed to convince me to do something stupid that I don’t want to do. You win by forfeit”
Ian felt embarrassed that he didn’t have a snappy comeback then compounded his error by letting his jealously get the best of him, “Do you always have to do the right thing, Mister Goody Two-Shoes?”
Guy shook his head, “What kind of idiot does the wrong thing on purpose? You want to get drunk and sick, then go for it. I’m not stopping you. I’ll see you at school or at practice.”
Ian followed Guy outside and challenged him, “I’m going to take you down,” as teammates and curious onlookers followed.
The boy charged at Guy who sidestepped his attack and punched him in the solar plexus. Ian fell to his knees, gasping for air. Guy helped his teammate to the front step of the house and set him down. He turned to his teammates and said, “Make sure he gets home safely.”
On Monday morning Guy was walking to class when heard a voice call out, “Hey Smith! I’m looking for you!”
When Guy turned around, he saw Ian Palmer and replied, “You found me.”
The entire student body watched in anticipation as Ian walked closer. The boy was heavily muscled, stood 6 foot 5 inches tall and weighed two hundred fifty pounds. He definitely had the weight and height advantage over Guy who was 6 foot 2 inches tall and was a lean 195 pounds. Nobody thought Guy was outmatched, however.
Ian stopped in front of Guy and said calmly, “You and me got some unfinished business to take care of.”
A half dozen scenarios flashed through Guy’s mind and he prepared himself to react to all of them, “I don’t want to be late for class, so let’s get to it.”
Instead of throwing a punch, Ian extended his hand, “I’d like to tell you that I’m sorry. I had too much to drink and was out of line. You could have really inflicted major damage if you had wanted to…thanks.”
Guy shook the hand of his teammate, “No problem,” holding grudges was not his style.
There was a collective sigh of relief from the other students.
After high school, Guy joined the Army and he saw his progression with clarity. He set a goal, accomplished it then set another one. After infantry training, he applied to airborne school, then qualified for Ranger Battalion, then reached his final goal of Delta Force. There were a lot of things that Guy like about being in this elite unit, but the main one was that he felt he was among kindred spirits. It was the first time in his entire life that he felt that way. Everybody was an overachiever where good enough was never good enough, only the best would do. He also liked the fact that special operators did their best to blend in and never stand out. They made a conscious effort to fly under the radar and keep a low profile. Many wore beards and nobody had a regulation haircut. It would be hard for anybody to pick out an ACE, or ‘Army Compartmented Element’ as the Army called members of Delta, even if one was standing right next to you.
Master Sergeant Bill O’Swilley had been Delta for almost 14 years and he took an immediate liking to Sergeant Guy Smith. He had served with the best all over the world and his keen instincts told him there was something unique about this young warrior.
Over the next six months, Bill carefully evaluated Guy’s performance in training and on missions. He was extra hard on him and when he was satisfied he offered, “You are my second in command…if I go down, you take over…got it?”
“I’ll do whatever you need me to do,” Guy answered.
There were no formalities or wasted words between these special operators.
Everything that Guy had learned and practiced as a boy helped to build a solid foundation for his special operations career. All the Men of ACE were experts at being self-reliant and working in perfect harmony. Master Sergeant Bill O’Swilley reminded his team on a regular basis, “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to be the best. There’s worse things than dying…and giving up is at the top of the list.”
The American missionaries were kidnapped by Nicaraguan terrorists and taken deep into the jungle. Whiskey Team parachuted into the region and quietly made their way into position. They were prepared to breech the perimeter when they saw two more trucks filled with armed men arrive on site. This dramatically altered their initial rescue plan.
Bill called the team together and allowed each man to voice his opinion. Guy had not spoken so. ,“You haven’t said anything, Smith…what’s your call?”
Guy answered, “It’s more dangerous if we go in now, we all know that. The question is how much more dangerous is it for the hostages if we don’t? We train to go where others won’t and we’re already here.”
Bill smiled, “I agree, let’s go get ‘em.”
Whiskey Team split into two groups, Bill took one and focused on securing the perimeter, Guy and his men were tasked with getting the hostages out. They went in hard and fast and caught the kidnappers by surprise. They weren’t there to take prisoners so they killed every terrorist they saw. From a rooftop, a burst of machine gun ripped through Bill’s body and he went down. Guy took out the gunners and rendered life- saving first-aid to his team leader. When the smoke had cleared, the hostages were safe and three ACE’s had been wounded, Bill suffered significant injuries inflicted by five bullets that hit him in both legs and chest. Due the skill of the team medic, Bill was quickly stabilized. When the choppers arrived, everybody quickly boarded.
Two weeks later, Bill was recovering from his injuries at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). It is the United States Army’s premier medical institution and only Level 1 Trauma Center. It is located on Fort Sam Houston.
Guy visited his friend and asked, “How are you feeling?”
“You know what they say, pain is my reminder that I’m still alive,” Bill grimaced.
“Did they tell you when you’re getting out?”
Bill replied, “It could be a while, a few more surgeries then some rehab. I recommended that you take over the team.”
“Until you get back?”
“We both know that’s not happening. My days of going downrange are behind me. No big deal, it is what it is. I’ve got a contingency plan. My uncle left me a house in Oceanside, California when he passed away five years ago. A property management company has been taking of it while I was away. It won’t be that big of an adjustment. I manage to get back every so often, so I know what to expect,” Bill explained.
“Stay in touch,” Guy suggested
Bill smiled, “You might get an e-mail from me every now and then.”
These were professional warriors, not inclined to get overly sentimental, but their brotherhood had been forged by their shared sacrifices and code of honor. It would never be broken.
The years passed and Guy and Bill occasionally made contact by phone or e-mail. Guy had just returned from an extended mission in Mali. West Africa, when he received word that Bill had passed away. The services had already taken place and his friend and teammate was buried with full military honors at Miramar National Cemetery. These few words were placed on the gravestone. Well done my good and faithful servant.’ Matthew 25:23, With the notification of Bill’s death was a letter from an attorney.
Guy called Wallace Deaver’s office from his quarters at Fort Bragg, “This is Guy Smith, I received a letter from your office concerning Bill O’Swilley.”
The receptionist responded, “I’ll connect you…please hold.”
“First of all, let me extend my deepest condolences. Mr. O’Swilley was a great man. I’ve been entrusted to handle the estate of Mr. O’Swilley. He left everything to you, house, cars and investments. You are the also the beneficiary on his life insurance policies. It is a very significant amount of money,” Wallace Deavers said.
“He didn’t have any family?” Guy asked.
“None that he was close to. Toward the end of his life when he came to realize the inevitability of his situation, we spent a lot time together making sure that everything was done correctly and you wouldn’t have any legal issues. When do you think that you would be able to come to California? They are papers to sign…transfer titles and such.”
“Let me see what I can arrange,” Guy said.
Guy talked to his command and explained the situation. Colonel Paul Dexter was familiar with Bill O’Swilley and commented, “Heaven got a hell of a fighter. You can take as long as you need.”
Guy landed in San Diego in the early morning, rented a car and drove directly to Wallace Deavers’ office in the Shadowridge area of Vista. It took about two hours for him to sign all the paperwork. Wallace said, “With the appraised value of the house and the other assets, your inheritance in the vicinity of 3.3 million. Is there anything you want me to liquidate or change?”
“Not at the moment. Do I owe you anything for your services?”
Wallace smiled, “Bill already paid for everything. Now that I have your signatures, I’ll submit the paperwork and death certificates to the insurance companies. How long are you going to be in town?”
Guy responded, “A few weeks…maybe longer.”
Guy’s next stop was Bill’s house in the Mission subdivision of the Rancho Del Oro area in Oceanside. It was a large two story house, Guy estimated it to be about 3500 square feet. He was standing in front of the residence when a woman walked up from behind, “You must be Guy Smith.”
Guy turned around to see an attractive woman in her mid to late thirties with long brown hair, big smile, blue jeans and work boots standing there. “Yeah, that’s me.”
The woman extended her hand, “I’m Chris Masterson. Bill showed me a photo of you so I’ve been expecting you to show up sooner or later.”
“You live nearby?” Guy asked.
Chris pointed to a one story residence, “I moved in about four years ago, bought the house from my parents who moved to a recreational retirement community in Hemet. It has a golf course, swimming pool, fitness center and all the amenities. Last time I visited them, they had five activities planned for the day. Sorry for rambling on, but I’ve heard so much about you, I feel that I know you.”
Chris asked, “That I feel like I know you?”
“That you’ve heard so much about me,” Guy said.
Chris laughed, “Bill said that would be your response. He said to tell you, that the memories of serving with you were some of his favorites and not to hold it against him if he shared a few. I have the keys if you want to see the interior?”
Chris opened the door and they entered, “Five bedrooms, three downstairs and two upstairs. The master is on the second floor. Bill rented two of the downstairs bedroom to a couple of veterans. Steve Nelson works on Camp Pendleton and Joe Martino is a truckdriver.”
They walked upstairs to a spacious and tastefully decorated master suite. Guy commented, “I didn’t know that Bill was this good a decorator.”
“He asked to get everything ready for you. I bought new furniture, linen, towels, put in new carpet and had it painted. Bill was kind of a minimalist…I hope you like my choices,” Chris said.
“Great,” Guy answered, “It’s like a resort.”
Chris’s cellphone rang, “I need to take this,” and walked into the hallway. When she returned, it was obvious that she was upset, “I need to go, I’ll try to stop by later.”
Guy left the house to get something to eat, then returned to the house that evening. The two renters were home by that time.
While sitting in the living room, the two men told Guy about Bill’s last days.
“No matter how bad things got, Bill never complained,” Dave said.
Joe added, “We could see how much pain he was in and we’d say, how’s it going and he’d smile and say, not bad, thanks for asking, how are you doing?”
“We did our best to help out, but the only person, Bill would show any weakness around was Chris. She’d take him to his doctor’s appointments, pick up his medications and make sure he was eating,” Dave said.
Guy asked, “She really helped him a lot, especially toward the very end?”
“That’s an understatement, day or night, all he had to do was ask,” Joe said, “She’s got a big heart…too big. She took Bill’s death really hard.”
“What does she do for a living?” Guy asked.
Joe answered, “She used be a nurse at Tri-City Medical Center. I think it took a toll on her emotionally. She trains horses now.”
Dave asked, “Are you going to want us to move out?”
“We’d appreciate it if you gave us some time to find another place,” Joe said.
“Why would I want that?” Guy asked.
“This is your house now, you don’t know us,” Dave said.
Guy responded, “You were friends of Bill and that’s good enough for me. How about if we just keep the same arrangements?”
Later that night, Guy was in the upper bedroom and looked out the window and saw Chris pull into her driveway. She was sitting in her car, visibly distraught and startled when Guy knocked on the window. She rolled down her window and swallowed her tears, “Sorry, I didn’t get a chance to come by. I got delayed. We can meet tomorrow, I’m really tired.”
Guy noticed that Chris wasn’t facing him, so he gently touched her face and turned it toward him. Her right eye was black and blue. “You need to tell me what happened.”
Once inside her house, Chris said, “This is my problem, I can handle it.”
“You helped my friend when he needed it, I’d be honored if you’d let me help you now.”
Chris reluctantly explained, “I’m training this great horse called Gimlet George. He’s entered in the International Cup at Del Mar Racetrack this weekend. I was approached by a Russian gambler a few weeks ago with an offer that he said I couldn’t or shouldn’t refuse. He wants to inject a banned narcotic of cobra venom and heart medicine into Gimlet George just before the race. It turbo charges the horse and is undetectable in drug tests. The major side effect is that it destroys the heart muscles of the animal and ruins them for future racing. He threatened to kill my family if I don’t agree. As a warning he beat one of my grooms so badly that he ended up in the hospital. The call that I received when I was with you earlier was from him. He sent me a photo of my parents on the golf course. I tried one last time to talk him out of it. I told him that Gimlet George had a very good chance of winning without drugs.”
“And he punched you in the face for your efforts?” Guy said.
“Yeah…he’s one scary individual.”
Guy asked, “How is this supposed to go down?”
“One of his men is supposed to meet me an hour before the race and he’ll do the injection at that time,” Chris said.
“Probably make a call to tell his boss when it’s done,” Guy surmised, “If I knew Bill like I think I did, he probably has some weapons stashed somewhere. Do you know anything about that?”
Chris and Guy went across the street into Bill’s house. Under a stack of towels in a linen closet was a manila envelope. Chris pulled it out, “I forgot to give this to you earlier,” and handed it to Guy who opened it. There was a sheet of paper with a list of items and instructions. In the master closet was a full length mirror, Guy swung it open like a door to expose a gun safe, “Never under-estimate O’Swilley. Even from the other world, he knows what you need.”
The combination of the safe was written on a sheet of paper. Guy opened it and saw a dozen weapons and almost as many boxes of ammunition.
Chris stared in amazement, “I didn’t know that was there.” When she saw Guy pull out a pistol and expertly handle it, “I guess I don’t need to ask if you know what you’re doing?”
“Now is not the time for me to be subtle or deceptive about my skills.”
It was Sunday and one hour before post time at Del Mar Racetrack. Two men approached Chris in the stable area. Guy was dressed like a worker and standing near Gimlet George’s stall. Chris and the two men approached the horse. One of men pulled out a syringe from his pocket. When Chris opened the stall door, Guy came up behind the man with the syringe and snapped his neck. He pulled out a knife and placed the blade under the other man’s chin, “Take it easy.”
The man acted defiantly so Guy gave him a minor attitude adjustment with a punch just below his sternum. The man gasped for air and responded, “He’ll kill me if I betray him.”
“Not if I kill him first,” Guy spoke in fluent Russian, “Make the call and tell him it’s done. I’ll understand what you’re saying so one slip-up and you’re a dead man.”
The man made the call and did exactly like he was told. Gimlet George won the race without being doped up, so there was no reason for the Russian gangster to be suspicious.
Later that night, a car arrived at a large home in the hills overlooking Del Mar Beach. A celebration was going on inside. The man that was captured earlier knocked on the door and somebody opened it. Guy pushed him inside and stepped in behind him. He had a pistol in each hand and when some men reached for their weapons, Guy shot all of them.
The leader offered, “I can make you a very rich man if you let me live.”
Guy responded, “I came for the head of the snake, nothing else will do.”
The Russian gangster sighed in resignation when he realized the inevitability of his situation and impending demise, “I wouldn’t believe me either. I would have come after you and killed everybody close to you in the process. That’s the way I do business.”
“I appreciate the honesty.”
“Call it professional courtesy,” The Russian smiled.
Guy shot the Russian leader then grabbed the man who he had forced to help him. He placed the man on the couch next to the dead bodies and took a dozen photos with his cellphone, “I gave you my word that I’d let you go if you helped me. If I see you again or anything happens to Chris Masterson, I’ll release these photos on the internet. I’m sure there are individuals out there that would be interested in your involvement in these deaths. These photos are my insurance policy.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. Once I leave here, I’m going to disappear,” The man promised.
Guy turned his back for a second so that the man couldn’t see what he was doing. He inserted two small rods into the barrels of his pistols, set them down and walked over to a table that had stacks of cash on it, “You might need some traveling cash.”
When Guy turned around the man was holding the pistols and pointing them at him. The man smiled in gleeful anticipation, “I like this new deal where I kill you, take all the money and the photos and they blamed you for a robbery gone bad.”
Guy retorted, “I guess it won’t do any good to try and talk you out of this?”
“No, none at all,” The man fired and was seriously wounded when the pistols blew up in his hands, Guy pulled another pistol from beneath his jacket and fired, “You should have stayed with the original agreement.”
Guy found a large travel bag in a hall closet, put the money in it then did a quick search through the house for other valuables. On the way out, he took the damaged pistols so there would be no evidence that could be lead back to him by way of Bill O’Swilley.
On the way back to Oceanside from Del Mar, Guy pulled off the freeway on Rancho Santa Fe Drive, drove behind a strip mall, disassembled the pistols and threw the pieces into a dumpster.
Upon his return to the house, Guy placed the bag of cash in the gun safe. He heard a knock at the door. Joe Martino called out, “Hey Guy, Chris is here.”
The couple walked outside for a little privacy. Chris nervously asked, “How did it go?”
Guy responded, “Your family is safe now.”
Chris embraced Guy in gratitude, “Thank you very much. Do I want to know what happened?”
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Guy smiled.
Guy had a couple more weeks of leave before heading back to Fort Bragg, but when the time came to leave, Chris asked, “When will I see you again?”
Guy smiled, “Now that I’ve got someplace and somebody I want to see again, probably the next time I get leave. I haven’t thought much about retiring from the Army in the past, but the prospects of a civilian life are looking very good right now.”
Chris gave Guy a big kiss, “I’ll be waiting.” As Guy got into his rental car for the ride back to the airport, Chris added, “You are no ordinary guy.” She couldn’t have been more right, the man was born to a self-reliant warrior, and he was one of the best.
To all veterans, I hope you had a good Veterans Day, you’ve earned it!
– Work of fiction. Names, characters, business, events and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance
The Veterans Writing Group of San Diego County invites all writers to join us at our monthly meetings. Veterans and Non-Veterans are equally welcome. For more information go to our website: www.veteranswritinggroup.org