The Bond

 

It was Christmas Eve, and laughing over a glass of eggnog, the O’Neill family trimmed their tree happily.

It wasn’t every year Jack managed to get leave, and with Mike there as well, Sara fully intended on making the most of it. She was a military wife, and knew happy times could end with one call. In her younger days, she’d stormed at the injustice of it all, but now; she took the good times for what they were.

If Sara was pleased then Charlie was giddy with excitement. Having his dad home was the best gift he could hope for, and laughing with joy, he made sure he stuck close to his father.

Traditions played a big part in Jack and Sara’s family, and Christmas Eve meant every one could open one gift. Charlie always knew which one he’d choose. The one that had come all the way from the cane fields of Australia.

Every year, for as along as he remembered, a brightly wrapped gift arrived from a family he’d never met. The gifts were always crazy. One year it was baggy green cricket hat signed by someone called Don Bradman. Another year a Steve Irwin book about the Great Barrier Reef arrived, and then, the strangest gift of all, a red and black football jersey signed by a team called the Essendon Football Club. Jack would read out Blue’s note explaining the gift, his eyes twinkling with pleasure. Charlie didn’t know, but it wasn’t the gift that made him so happy, it was his father’s unbridled joy at receiving it.

Sara watched and smiled. She looked at the gifts from Australia and shook her head. They were so strange, but the smile on her husband’s face meant she loved them anyway. Who needed warm ski hats when you could have electric blue colored flip-flops shaped like a crocodile?

“Daddy?” Charlie asked one Christmas, “Where did you meet your Australian friend?”

“It’s Christmas, Charlie, just enjoy the holidays.” A haunted look would cross Jack’s face, and Sara knew to distract her small son. Some memories were best left buried.

Jack’s heavy sigh had Sara looking up. While they never mentioned the man from the cane fields of McKay, she felt she knew him well enough. When Jack first came home from Iraq, his nightmares were terrible, and saturated with sweat, he’d cry out his name. Sara offered what comfort she could, and she came to understand that he’d been the most important thing in her husband’s life. Bluey O’Donnell had been Jack’s life line, a measure of peace, and for that, she had been grateful.

She could never have known how close to the mark she’d been. Without Major Bruce *Bluey* O’Donnell, Jack O’Neill would have never made it out of Iraq alive.

The Iraqi cell they’d been forced to share with twenty other poor bastards had been a nightmare. Filthy, over crowed, and stinking with fear and pain, everyone screamed, everyone cried, everyone wanted to die. The Iraqis made sure of it.

But Blue O’Donnell stubbornly refused to give up, and he gave Jack hope where there should have been none. The red-haired, freckled faced, Aussie was a tenacious man who had refused to give in to his tormentors, and Jack had allied himself with him. When their cellmates begged to die, Blue and Jack refused to listen, and made sure they stuck together like glue.

They had a lot in common. Both had boys the same age, wives called Sara, and in the dark, they’d tell each other the things they’d do when they got home.

Blue hated fishing, said it bored the shit out of him, and spluttering with disbelief, Jack spent months tying to convert him. Bluey loved cricket, with a passion, and counteracted tall fishing stories with feats of cricket magnificence. Their banter drew others out of their shells, and when the camp had been liberated, they clung to each other and cried tears of relief. They had made it! The bastards hadn’t beaten them.

A bond had been created between the two men from opposite sides of the world that could never be broken.

So, every year, Jack went to the stores and bought a gift for a little boy living in McKay, Queensland. He wrapped it with care, added a book on fishing, and sent it express post.

Come November, Major Anthony O’Donnell picked out the perfect gift, added a book on cricket, and shipped it to Minnesota USA.

Some friendships are made never to be broken, and Jack and Blue knew they’d been blessed to have found one.

 

OoO

 

 

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