“The Heaviest Shadow” by Edgar Guapo

Andy carried himself well. He wore a finely ironed uniform and the most polished footwear. He knew how to do his job and expected everyone else around him to know how to do theirs. This is how we found former Private Andrew Simeon (E1) while he worked at a Burger King in Copperas Cove, outside of Fort Hood, Texas. We had not seen him since he had gone AWOL* a few weeks earlier. He once carried an M4 rifle, now he carried a spatula.

Private First Class Tate (E3) carried a duffel bag full of gear. The bag contained extra uniforms, a NBC mask*, a Kevlar helmet, and other assorted military items. On one particular weekend PFC Tate carried the duffel bag to a pawn shop to sell all of its contents. PFC Tate was demoted to Private (E2) when it was discovered he had knowingly sold someone else’s gear and used the money to pay for cocktails and lap dances Private Tate was discharged early, dishonorably. He went back home to North Carolina carrying a $400 car payment and no job.

Sergeant Sparger (E5) carried a small notebook where he always annotated the mistakes and deficiencies of the members of his squad. Positive comments were absent from the notebook. One evening, when he thought no one was listening or watching, he grabbed a soldier by his uniform and dragged him down a street for a few feet. He said, “If you don’t intend to re-enlist next year then just go home now, go back to Mexico! Go sit around wearing your sombrero and drinking tequila with all of your wetback friends!” His actions were promptly reported by other soldiers who had witnessed the incident, some of whom had once worked for him. Soon after, he was the one being yelled at by the company’s First Sergeant (E8). His pay was reduced for a month and he was ordered to perform extra duty from 6pm to midnight for two weeks. From that time on, Sergeant Sparger carried the weight of Bravo Company’s stares. A hundred and twenty men’s long held suspicions about his racism were now confirmed.

Specialist Dupleshon (E4) carried a lighter, a pack of Newport cigarettes and not much else. He knew how to delegate the day’s work. At the end of the day his uniform was as immaculately clean as it was at nine o’clock in the morning. Unlike Sergeant Sparger, he allowed his fellow soldiers to enjoy some down time if the day’s work was finished early. For this he carried their respect. He carried Sergeant Sparger’s respect, because he had once put a beating on him. When Specialist Sparger (E4) first reported for duty to Fort Hood, he had already served four years as a Marine. He instantly began trying to boss around other lower ranking soldiers, even some fellow specialists. He thought being an E4 in the Army should carry just as much respect and authority in the Army as it did in the Marines. He quickly found out it did not when Specialist Dupleshon kicked his ass.

Private Guapo (E2) carried an M249 fully automatic machine gun and its 200 rounds of ammunition. He was the only one in the squad who also carried Sergeant Sparger’s disdain. Sparger tried to remove Guapo, not just from the squad, but from the Army itself. At the end of an FTX*, Sergeant Sparger dismissed Private Guapo for the rest of the evening. Later that night he reported Private Guapo as being temporarily AWOL. As a result of his lie, E2 Guapo was demoted to E1 Guapo and castoff to a different platoon. Private Guapo continued to carry the M249 plus the sharp concertina wire*, the steel pickets, and the heavy picket pounder. These, along with land mines, were the tools of the trade for Combat Engineers. At the end of his enlistment, Edgar Guapo carried home a DD214* with an honorable discharge along with last rank held, E4 Specialist and the satisfaction of knowing Sergeant Sparger was unsuccessful in removing him from the Army.

*AWOL; Absent Without Leave. To abandon one’s assigned post without permission.

*NBC mask; Nuclear, Biological, Chemical protective mask.

*FTX; Field Training Exercise. Simulated combat maneuvers.

*concertina wire; a wire used when creating obstacles, similar to barbed wire

*DD214; Official document given to members of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard upon completion of service. This document describes under what terms the service member left his branch. Honorable, dishonorable, and other than honorable are a few examples.

Enlisted ranks:

E1- Private

E2- Private

E3- Private First Class

E4- Specialist

E5- Sergeant (Squad Leader)

E6- Staff Sergeant (Squad Leader)

E7- Sergeant First Class (Platoon Sergeant)

E8- First Sergeant (Company Sergeant)

E9- Sergeant Major (Battalion Sergeant)

Edgar Guapo served from July 1997 to December 2001. He served for 2 1/2 years in the United States Army as a Combat Engineer and two years in the United States Army Reserve as an Administrative Specialist. As a Combat Engineer he was assigned to the Fourth Infantry Division stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. As an Administrative Specialist he was assigned to the 304th MMC in Los Angeles, California. He is a single father attending the University of California, Santa Barbara as a third year student. He is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts degree in History.