Before the festivities begin, suspected Islamic terrorists hijack their flight. Marcos, a lieutenant in the Lebanese Army and the son of Lebanon's president, is kidnapped and held for ransom. Major and Ben must use their skills acquired in Army Ranger training to free Marco. They reach out to a mysterious acquaintance from their past to pull off a daring rescue attempt.
Breaking with protocol and violating direct orders from their superiors, Major and Ben risk their lives for that of their friend, understanding that true friendship supersedes rules and regulations. During their mission, they realize their actions are tangled in a dangerous web with ancient ties. They discover the incident surrounding their actions is but one part of a grander plan-the outcome over which they have no control.
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Read an Excerpt
Hands of Honor
By Terron Sims II
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Terron Sims II
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFort Monmouth is located on the Jersey shore, conveniently one hour south of New York City and one hour north of Atlantic City. The Jersey shore is a popular summer haven for young adults and families from New York, New Jersey, and the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Fort Monmouth is a very small, obscure post that most individuals, including many active duty Army personnel, do not know exists. For the past several years, the Army has been transitioning to civilianize the instillation. The two major units at Fort Monmouth are the US Communication and Electronic Command (CECOM) and the United States Military Academy Preparatory School (USMAPS).
The mission of the United States Military Academy Preparatory School is to provide academic, military, and physical instruction in a moral-ethical military environment to prepare and motivate candidates for success at West Point. Cadet Candidates, as the Prep School's students are referred to, are specifically chosen because they posses leadership potential, yet lack the full academic skills needed to achieve success with the Academy's rigorous academic schedule. The majority of the Cadet Candidates graduate in the top of their high school classes, possess outstanding physical abilities, demonstrate strong leadership potential, and have a strong desire to attend West Point. By attending USMAPS, The Military Academy provides the Cadet Candidates an opportunity that they would otherwise have not received.
The Prep school is comprised of a three-company battalion: Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. It receives between one hundred fifty and two hundred Cadet Candidates every July. The Department of the Army mandates that the Prep school admit a minimum of a fifty one percent US Army soldier population that consists of regular Army, National Guard, and reserve soldiers. The other forty-nine or less percent of the incoming Prep school class come straight out of high school and college. The large majority of the high school students are athletic recruits. The others are "regular" high school kids who West Point feels have what it takes to achieve success at the Military Academy, yet need an additional year to sharpen their math and English skills. Though the majority of the incoming high school students are athletic recruits, they are still required to meet West Point's demanding application requirements.
15 April 2000, 2000 hrs: Cornwall, New York
Due to the recent events that occurred at West Point this past winter, the Department of the Army (DA) had initially decided to not allow Major to serve as a graduate assistant (GA) basketball coach at USMAPS. With the Army's officers' corps numbers so dramatically reduced for the next four years, DA felt it unwise to waste a perfectly good new second lieutenant for six months coaching basketball. Needless to say, West Point has a way of getting what it wants, when it wants it.
This particular evening, Major is at Coach Patrick's house watching basketball and eating pizza. The Army men's basketball team lost in the first round to John Chaney's Temple University Owls in a tough defensive battle. Now home, the basketball team does like the rest of the nation: watches the NCAA tournament on TV.
Being the competitors that they are, the Army team was disappointed in the loss, but not terribly so because they had accomplished their goal of winning the Patriot League tournament; thus, reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history. Now, like their football brothers who played their hearts out in the Independence Bowl against Auburn during the '96 season, they too have rings.
While intensely watching Duke battle it out on the hardwood against Florida, Coach Patrick takes a moment to ask Major, "Do you want to GA at the Prep?"
The question shocks Major and ensues in him a feeling of extreme joy. Calming down from his excitement, Major asks, "Can I call my dad real quick?"
"Of course," Coach Patrick replies.
Major leaps to his feet and heads for Coach Patrick's telephone, which hangs on the kitchen wall. He lifts the receiver to call his dad, COL Sydney Johnson, USMC. After three rings, a male voice answers the telephone from the other end.
Recognizing the voice, Major says, "Dad, Coach just asked me to GA for him down at the Prep,"
"For how long?" COL Johnson asks.
"What about your basic course?"
"I'll report to OBC in January."
"Is that going to affect your promotion to First Lieutenant?"
"I already checked into that. It doesn't. All of the guys who've done it in the past were promoted on time."
"Do you really want to do this?"
"More than you know. I've wanted to be a GA since I went to the Prep."
"Well, I don't see why not."
"Thanks a lot, dad! I really appreciate it. I'll talk to you later."
"All right, Milton. You take care."
Major returns the telephone to the receiver and says to Coach Patrick, "I've got you, Coach. My dad says it's cool."
"That's great!" Coach Patrick exclaims. "I want you to see me everyday so we can run through drills and watch some film."
"Good deal. I can't wait! You know. I always wondered what goes on in that crazy mind of yours when you're breaking down film."
16 April 2000, 1430 hrs: West Point, New York
It is the early afternoon at the United States Military Academy. More significantly, it is the coldest month of the year in upstate New York. Being a Cadet during the winter is extremely unpleasant because the issued uniforms do not do much of a job of keeping one warm. The thickest coat that is issued to the Cadets is a wool overcoat. Most Cadets, when it is extremely cold out, wear either their gray jacket or, if they have one, their varsity sweater underneath.
Weather wise, it is an average day at West Point. The sky is gray to the point that one is unable to tell wether it is covered in an enormous blanket of gray clouds or if the sky itself has changed colors to adjust to the cold temperature. The air is so crisp that the lungs seem to feel every frozen molecule that enters the body.
There is hardly a soul walking in Cadet Area, not counting the numerous construction workers who are rebuilding the Mess Hall, Washington Hall, and Eisenhower and MacArthur Barracks. The majority of the Cadets are either in class or relaxing in their rooms. If it were warmer out, some of the Cadets would be outside playing basketball or soccer, or just lying out somwhere enjoying the nice weather. But, since the weather is not nice, it is more comfortable just staying in their rooms.
Major is one of the few Cadets who is currently out of his room. Being that he has to meet with Coach Patrick in about an hour, Major is taking care of some personal business that he can only handle during his precious time off after lunch. Major heads for Grant Barracks so he can get dressed for practice. Passing by Nininger Hall, Major just happens to run into his company tactical officer (TAC), MAJ Weiss.
"How's it going, Major?" MAJ Weiss asks as he stops to speak to his former commander.
"Not bad, sir. You?" Major asks.
"Everything is good. I'm glad I ran into you."
"Why's that sir?"
"I just returned from a meeting and saw that you're on the list to GA at the Prep school."
"Why do you want to do that?"
"I've wanted to do that since I went to the Prep, sir."
"I don't know, Major. I think you're making a mistake."
"How's that sir?"
"How long do you GA for?"
"Six months, sir."
"That's what I thought. You're going to miss some precious lieutenant time: time that you can't get back.
"Sir, I spoke to my dad, and he doesn't have a problem with me GAing."
MAJ Weiss shakes his head, then says, "I think you're wasting your time, Major."
"No disrespect, sir, but I don't believe I am. The Army will be there when I'm done GAing. I'll have plenty of time to be a lieutenant."
Again, MAJ Weiss displays his dissapointment in Major's decision to coach basketball at the Prep school.
Knowing that he is unable to change Major's mind, MAJ Weiss dissapointingly says, "Well, I guess you're going to do what you're going to do."
"Roger that, sir. I have to."
"Oh well," MAJ Weiss replies as he walks away from Major.
Before MAJ Weiss can walk too far away, Major states, "Don't worry, sir. You'll see that I made the right decision."
Deciding that the needs of the Army supersede those of the Prep School, The Department of the Army decided that it was not necessary to fill the additional GA positions: women's basketball, lacrosse, and soccer. The Prep school traditionally uses the soccer GA as its head coach and first semester English instructor, but is now forced to hire from the civilian sector, at least for the next three years.
Despite the needs of the Army, Major is not the sole GA for the school year. His four friends, Ben Irons, James "JT" Midland, Greg Wilson, aka G Dubs, and Tony Carlson, aka TC, are also coaching at the Prep school as assistant football coaches. Their jobs were procured more on the basis of the necessity of the Prep School operating at a functional level. The permanent football coaching staff only consists of two assistants, who serve as the offensive and defensive coordinators, and a head coach.
The four young men are fortunate to coach the positions that they played at West Point. Ben is the linebacker coach, JT is the quarterback and offensive line coach, G Dubs serves as the wideouts coach, and TC serves as the defensive backs coach. Without the football GAs, the Prep school football team is unable to compete at a competitive level, as it does every year.
Other than coaching, the GAs serve as assistant company TACs during the summer training session known as Cadet Candidate Orientation. The GAs lead the Cadet Candidates in morning physical training and teach honor, leadership, and military tactics classes.
As GAs, the newly promoted second lieutenants serve as role models for the Cadet Candidates: constantly mentoring and assisting them on how to better prepare themselves for a successful life at West Point. Major and TC, being Prep school alums, are true beacons of hope for the young Cadet Candidates who are striving to achieve entrance to and success at the Military Academy.
During the academic year, besides their coaching responsibilities, the GAs are also physical education instructors. Because the football team is currently in season, the four football GAs serve as the weight-training instructors. Because they are in season, the weight-training class consists mainly of the football and basketball teams. Major is the assistant swimming instructor, working alongside his basketball head coach, Bruce Peak, and the football offensive coordinator, Steven Nailer.
Major has no idea why he was selected to teach swimming. He had to take the class twice at West Point and barely passed it the second time. When Major took swimming the first time, his class was in the category known as The Rocks. The title speaks for itself.
Major and his four classmates, including JT, were such bad swimmers that they were known throughout the Department of Physical Education as the Fab Five. They were so notorious for their lack of swimming ability that when they repeated the course their Yearling year Plebes would approach them and ask if they were in the Fab Five.
The Fab Five were such bad swimmers that, at the end of just their fourth day of class, their instructor, CPT Oliver Armstrong, said, "I'm going to be honest with you guys. None of you are going to pass."
The Fab Five's hearts sank at the ominous news. Their worst fear was coming true- having to repeat Plebe swimming.
CPT Armstrong continued, "It's better that I'm honest with you. What I'm going to do is focus on preparing you guys to pass the class next year."
Fortunately for the Fab Five, they all passed Plebe swimming on the second attempt ... during the first quarter of their Yearling year. They did not all pass with flying colors, but they all passed, nonetheless. Major now considers himself an expert swimmer ... at the sidestroke. Why the sidestroke? Because he can breathe while he moves through the water.
8 July 2000, 1800 hrs: Bradley Beach, New Jersey
Major pulls into the driveway of his new home for the next six months: a three-story, five bedroom yellow house located just two blocks from the beach. The house is very ideal for young bachellors who plan on doing nothing with their free time but party. The house is rather old, as are all of the other homes in the community.
Because Bradley Beach is a popular summer vacation spot, the majority of the residents rent their homes during the summer. Once the summer ends, Bradley Beach becomes very quiet and desolate, which maks the older residents eccstatic.
G Dubs, TC, and JT have already made it to the house. Major parks behind G Dubs' car and immediately jumps out of his 4Runner, leaving his bags in the vehicle. He is unconcerned with them. The only thing on Major's mind is seeing his friends and checking out his new home.
Major trots down the sidewalk and leaps up over the steps and onto the front porch. He swings open the screen door and turns the knob. Seeing that the door is unloked, Major bursts into the house.
With his first step inside, Major shouts, "Fellas, I'm home!"
From a side room, Major hears a familiar voice shout, "Major!"
"Big Swoll!" Major jovialy replies as he rushes to the source of the voice.
From the side room, JT strides out and meets Major where the dining and living rooms meet. The two friends happily embrace and pick one another up.
Releasing their grip on each other, JT says, "Glad to see you made it. You get all your stuff?"
"Yeah," Major replies. "How were my directions? You didn't have any trouble getting up here, did you?"
"None at all. David and Jeff were wrong though."
"There wasn't any traffic when I left your house: None what so ever. I was able to drive without any problems.
"Good deal. So, I'm guessing G's directions to the house were good to go too, huh?"
"Yeah. He staked the place out a while back."
From upstatirs, Major and JT hear someone shout, "Major, is that you?"
"Who else would it be, brother?" Major loudly replies.
JT and Major hear the sound of scurrying coming from upstairs, followed by movement down the stairs.
TC steps into the living room and says to Major, "It's about time you got hear."
The two friends shake hands and quickly embrace.
Major then asks JT and TC, "Where the hell is G? I see his car parked outside."
"Oh. He's probably next door," JT answers.
Major gives JT and TC a funny look.
Noticing Major's quizical look, TC says to JT, "He hasn't met Jimmy and them yet?"
"No. He just got here," JT replies.
"Who's Jimmy?" Major asks.
"Jimmy's this Italian dude who lives next door to us," TC replies. "He and his friends live in Staten Island and rent the place out on the weekeds during the summer. Let me tell you! Them guys are wild, man! You need to meet them. They're our kind of people!" TC then looks at JT and asks, "You want to come?"
"No," JT answers. "I'm going to mess around with my computer."
"Whatever, man," TC replies. "Come on, Major."
TC turns around and heads for the front door, with Major following close behind. Outside, TC looks down the street to his right and notices that there are cars parked alongside the road.
"Good," TC states as he leads Major off of the porch and down the stairs, "They're still home."
At the bottom of the steps, TC and Major turn right and head next door. Major follows TC up the stairs of their weekend neighbors' house and immediately take a left. The two friends stand before the front door, which is open, with the screen door closed. TC gives the screen door several hard knocks, then takes a couple of steps back. Major is unsure as to why TC steps back until his question is immediatley answered by the savage barking of two extremely large black rawtwhilers.
"Wo!" Major states, as he leaps back away from the door.
"Don't worry about the dogs," TC says. "Jimmy'll handle them."
Not sooner than TC speaks do the two friends hear from within the house, "What're you boys barking at?"
Major and TC peer through the srcreen door and spot a rather large man exiting the kitchen and walking through the living room, making his way to the front door.
Excerpted from Hands of Honor by Terron Sims II Copyright © 2011 by Terron Sims II. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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