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But where was Ed? He’d looked for his buddy earlier and someone said he was with the company clerk, filling out insurance papers. Scott didn’t want to think about insurance papers, and he sure as hell didn’t want to think about getting killed.

Using the skills drummed into his head through countless hours of training, he helped Private Thrupp strap on every weapon and piece of gear he could carry.

“I don’t know how the planes can get off the ground with all of the extra weight we’re carrying.”

“All I need is my M-1 carbine, Sarge,” Thrupp said.

Scott shook his head and took a tin of black camouflage paint out of his pack. He smeared it on Thrupp’s face and then his own. Thrupp seemed so young, even though he was only a few years younger than Scott.

“I’ll be damned. We’re about to go to war, and you’re putting on makeup.”

The sound of Ed’s voice caused a wave of relief to rush over Scott.

“Where the hell have you been? I was looking all over for you. You know I can’t jump out of that damned plane without you right behind me.”

“Sorry I’m a little late, but I had to fill out insurance papers. You know, if I don’t make it home, Mama can be consoled with that extra ten thousand dollars we get for being crazy enough to volunteer for this outfit.”

“You or ten thousand dollars? Tough trade,” Scott said.

Ed tugged aside the heavy parachute strapping to get to his shirt pocket.

“Oh, by the way, you got a piece of mail this morning, and I told Corporal Mitchell I’d give it to you.”

He didn’t have to look at the return address. The familiar pink paper told him all he needed to know. He held it close to his nose to inhale the rose-scented perfume she always doused on the stationery. God, how he loved her. He’d spent many a lonely night on the bunk in his crowded barracks reading her sweet messages and staring at the lovely face in the picture she’d sent.

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