JACK H. PLACE
Captain | Infantry
Though peace talks had been occurring for months, no one suspected that the war would end the next day. Company G still inhabited their bunkers like troglodytes while artillery screamed in hourly. Despite a tortuous mortar barrage that began mid-afternoon, Lieutenant Place dashed to the top of his company command post to call in counter-fire directions.
The men moving down the hill watched as their commander ducked under bullets and blazing shards of metal, admiring his determination as a red sun sank beneath the hills and afternoon slipped into evening.
From the base of the hill, Jack was silhouetted by flares and shell bursts when a close round knocked him from his perch on the command post. His helmet rolled softly in the dirt nearby.
Nearby, Master Sergeant Earl Jackson Smith saw the Lieutenant take the hit and sprinted to his side, amazed to find him alive. His face was covered in blood, he had shrapnel buried in his knee and thigh, and was severely dazed. His right forearm was torn open showing pale bone through ragged flesh. Regardless, he refused evacuation and continued to direct artillery fire. When Jack was finally pleased with the continued accuracy of friendly artillery, he submitted to Earl's stern suggestion and wrapped his arm around the Sergeant's shoulder.
Earl was just as dedicated a soldier as Jack. After dropping the Lieutenant off at the aid station, he promptly turned back up the hill to return the command post. He never made it - he was struck down before he got there.
The war ended that day.
It was years before Jack made an appearance at a reunion. He was a ghost for most of the survivors, but he was truly there, flesh and blood. They had all seen him fall - but his helmet saved his life and Sergeant Smith ensured his safety. Despite long recovery and a serious headache, Jack was just fine, and managed to keep this iconic helmet as a reminder of that day in Korea - as if he could ever forget it.