Bobby Knight was the sheriff in the small northern New England township where he had lived for the past forty-five years. It was a small, peaceful community. The area of New England where it sat on hill above a river valley below was truly a place of great natural beauty. Life there was good. It was easy, and routine, in a comforting way. One day early in the morning a nuclear bomb was detonated above the atmosphere which caused an electromagnetic pulse. Since the EMP attack had thrown most of the nation into darkness. most first responders abandoned their jobs to be home to help their families survive after the county stopped paying their salaries. Bobby had no family to speak of. He felt a certain loyalty to the residents of the small community he served for the past four decades. He stayed on in his capacity as sheriff even after others had left. The Ford explorer that the county provided him sat idle in his driveway. When gasoline shortages started popping up in neighboring areas due to the EMP attack, Bobby resorted to using his personal 1947 Harley Davidson FLH pan head to conserve precious fuel. It was now mid-October and the shin length leather over coat he was wearing provided little protection from the cold rain this morning as he rode into town toward his office.
A Vietnam veteran, He served two tours as a Marine in country from 1971 to 1973. He quit school the day he turned seventeen and joined the Corp. Bobby had a pretty horrific time in Vietnam. He was a combat medic, and a member of the 5th special forces group. His unit was assigned to a camp of indigenous people in the central highlands region of Vietnam. The camp where bobby lived and served was overrun by the North Vietnamese two months after he arrived there. After being taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he spent two months in a bamboo cage under water up to his chin. The cage was not tall enough for him to stand up in completely and at the same time too narrow for him to sit down in, which he couldn’t have done anyway because it would have placed him fully underwater. They moved him around regularly from camp to camp. On one such slog through the jungle he seized his opportunity to escape.
While crossing a river forty feet above on a rickety rope bridge with his hands bound behind him, he launched himself over the edge and into the raging torrent below. The guards that were moving him fired several volleys at him but never hit him. He nearly drowned but managed to get to the shore downstream. He made his way for thirteen days through the jungle until a patrol of American soldiers picked him up near the Cambodian border. He had barely eaten in that time and he stayed hydrated by sucking moisture from off palm leaves in the jungle and lapping water from streams and brooks. His hands tied behind him the entire time.
After he was reassigned to a new unit, he later received his orders to return home. On the flight back to the states he sat alone in silent contemplation. He quietly and solemnly thanked God for delivering him from this terrible ordeal. As he looked out the plane window into the country he would hopefully never see again, he couldn’t help noticing that this place that had brought him so much pain, so much misery was actually a very beautiful country. As he prayed thanks, he promised God and himself that he would never ask for anything ever again. Every day for the rest of his life was a gift, he reasoned. Every day for the rest of his life, no matter what happened, would be a piece of cake compared to what he had just lived through.
His final night in country was spent on night patrol with his unit. When he stood up to get off the plane in Dover Delaware, he thought of how, just nineteen hours earlier he walked out of the jungle at dawn on the other side of the world. He reached for his rifle, but it wasn’t there. He felt naked without it and at the same time relieved that he didn’t need it. He was home physically, but psychologically and emotionally it would take him decades to get back. In fact, there was a part of him that would never return home. As he was getting off the plane, he watched silently as a group of airmen unloaded twenty two flag draped caskets from the cargo hold of a C130. He stood at attention and held his salute as the caskets were loaded onto a tram and brought into the morgue. As he stood there it started to rain. He had come to hate the rain during his time in country in Southeast Asia. As a young boy growing up in upstate New York, he loved playing in the warm summer rain. However as a POW, the rain meant days, weeks sometimes of misery as his captors stood the prisoners cages up in the jungle, leaving them exposed to the torrential downpours. After the last casket rolled by, Bobby dropped his salute and walked into the concourse. He was on his way to Camp Lejune, North Carolina to receive his official discharge from the Marine Corp. In three days he would become a civilian again.
Bobby rolled the pan head onto the side of the street in front of his office. As he dismounted and walked up to unlock the door, he knew deep inside that he could never abandon his job. He could never abandon his duty to the oath he swore. No matter what the world he lived in now would bring. This world of post societal collapse. He remembered the promise he made to God on the plane ride home from the jungles of Southeast Asia decades ago. His duty and his purpose now would be to the only real family he had. To the people of his community. He paused before walking into his office. He turned and stood for a long moment in the now steady freezing rain. He looked out over the valley that lay below. He watched as the clouds continued to roll in. He smiled warmly and looked up to the heavens. He was home.