Soldier Mine (Chapter One: Petr, page 2 of 5)

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Kids … well, they get it. They understand that my leg is actually pretty awesome. The amount of science that went into it is astounding and its ability to function like it's a part of me more so. While I could never be grateful for the explosion that cost me a brother and a leg, I'm grateful for the metal contraption that's given me a second chance to walk.

"My dad's doesn't look like this," one girl says, frowning.

"It's pretty high tech," I tell her. "Your dad military?"

"Yeah. He got out last year after his leg was blown off. He was in the Army, too. But he's only missing half his leg."

I reach into my pocket and pull out a business card. "Have him contact me. There's an experimental program I'm in where they custom design legs like mine. They're always looking for more candidates."

She accepts the card.

What I don't tell her: the support services for soldiers' limb replacement are overwhelmed. With the influx of injured service members and veterans the past ten years, the soldiers' hospitals and Veterans Administration have some amazing, cutting edge technology and advancements in limb replacement - but don't always have the resources needed to ensure every injured soldier benefits. I have an inheritance I couldn't spend in a hundred lifetimes, sit on the board for a charity created in my brother's name to help wounded vets, and firsthand experience at limb replacement. Helping others is a natural fit, and I'm always on the lookout for people who could use a hand.

The final bell of the day chimes. Interested though they may be, the kids nonetheless dart off to grab their gear and run to catch their buses. The classroom empties out, and I fasten the pant leg of my specially designed dress greens to cover the prosthetic limb once more.

"That was a very … uh, graphic and … um, interesting story," the teacher says and clears her throat. She approaches, her silver hair and the lines around her intelligent gaze marking her age around fifty or so.

"Thank you, ma'am." I wink at her, sensing the effort it takes for her not to speak in the disapproving tone she'd probably use with her kids if they told a tale like I just did.

"I have a feeling you were a wild one," she says and purses her lips.

"I was the calmest in my family," I reply and silently acknowledge that's not saying much given the astronomical temperament of my sister and the near suicidal risk taking of my deceased twin brother. "War isn't always a nice, neat business or what video games and movies paint it as. I think I owe it to the kids to entertain and also give a fair representation."

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