Copyright Ken Brady. No reproduction without express permission from the author.
(Originally published in DAILY CABAL, 2008)
We always go in where the confusion will mask our advance. Setting up the equipment amid walls of smoke and flame is best, as it’s less likely one of us will be killed before things really get rolling.
The time portal is open just long enough to get our supplies through, and then it’s June 6, 1944, 8:02 a.m. and we’re on the shale and sands of Dog White, surrounded by barked orders, screams of pain, continuous machine gun fire from the pillboxes above.
As the 116th swirls around us, Jackie pushes play on the boombox and the carnage mingles with the upbeat sound of Pink Martini. I get first serve, so I step to the restraining line and vault the ball over the net. Cheryl returns the ball to our side of the net and Koogie misses the damn thing. Down to the ground it goes, him diving after it. Good thing, as tracers tear through the space he’d been standing moments before.
A few members of the 5th Ranger Battalion pause to look at us like they’ve never seen anyone playing volleyball in the middle of a battle, but they are soon distracted by the job at hand. Someone from Company C has just blown the first gap through the wires with a bangalore torpedo, and the Rangers head off to join the main assault.
We focus on the game. The volleys are fast, brutal. Cheryl takes a bullet to the thigh, but still returns a particularly difficult shot. It’s fitting that she troopers on, even while injured. After all, this is war. If she survives, we’ll patch her up when we get back. Just as soon as we finish the game.
Some survivors will say they saw tanned people in ridiculously skimpy swimsuits playing volleyball on Omaha Beach while death rained down around them. No one will believe them, of course. Battle fatigue. Part of the horrors of war. But if you look really hard at some of the photos from the archives, I bet you’ll just barely see us. Or maybe you won’t.
The recognition isn’t why we go. It’s all about the game. Roller hockey during the Siege of Sevastopol, soccer at the Battle of Glendale, disc golf at the Battle of Yiling. Next we may try softball in the moments just before the Hiroshima bomb drops.
It’s enough to know we were there, that we were a part of history.