The Major looked at the fifty men assembled in front of him, each sitting a combination chair-desk familiar to high-schoolers across the nation. In fact, the room he was in looked like a classroom, complete with a chalk board at the front with an American flag to its side. But what he was going to talk about wasn’t going to be a history lesson, although what happened here might one day make history.
“Gentlemen, each of you civilians are here today because you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Each of you has an estimated six to eight months to live.” He watched the empty, hopeless eyes look at one another across the room.
“I am here today to give you hope.” Eyes riveted on him. “Not hope for a cure, but hope for a purpose. To make your deaths meaningful.”
“As you know from the newspapers, suicide bombers have wreaked havoc on our troops in the Middle East. In this type of asymmetric warfare, the lone act of one individual not only creates deaths to our better armed and better trained warriors, but creates suspicion, fear, and loss of morale.”
“We have tried to battle this threat with tactics ranging from early detection to better engagement with the population. And while these attacks have largely moved away from our troops to civilian targets, we feel that we need to fight fire with fire; to use the enemy’s own tactics against him.
“So I, under top security clearance, have been granted approval to form the Asymmetrical Special Service Honorary Officer League. Under this program, we will be recruiting terminally ill Americans to engage in suicide attacks to strike back at the country that is supporting most of the suicide attacks in the region, Iran.
A group of nervous eyes searched the room.
“I know what you’re thinking. But know that our targets will only be military. You will be going to barracks, parade grounds, officer clubs and the like. You will not be going to markets or any civilian areas.”
Many eyes had found the door, where a marine at parade rest looked straight ahead without emotion. They weren’t leaving until they heard the whole thing.
“Just think about it. Many of you will be wasting away, under extreme pain. Your spouses, your children’s last memories of you will be of a helpless invalid, languishing in bed, unable to care for yourself. And many of you will be so drugged up on morphine and pain killers that you won’t even be able to recognize them.”
“We are offering you a choice to go painlessly and in the service of your country. And to go while advancing our cause against the enemy. What we are asking you is not new. We ask young men to volunteer for “one way missions” all the time. Japan asked its young men with many years yet to live to take on Kamikaze attacks. And there are, of course, many documented instances of U.S. soldiers gladly giving their lives in the service without being asked.
“So all I am asking you to do is think about it. Think about the number of months you have left, and how you want to die. Long and painful, or short and quick. And we are offering extra incentives: a special memorial will be erected in your honor at Arlington, and your family will get full death benefits and a pension as if you had been killed in action as a major.
“All of us in this room are going to die one day. You as a group know your days are numbered. I am offering you the unique chance change the how and the why of your deaths.”
“I look forward to your responses in the next 48 hours.” He nodded silently at the marine, who opened the door and stepped to the side. Fifty bewildered men filed out silently, lost in their thoughts.