Friday, May 4, 2012
The slap of the lashes still ringed loudly in his ears, but he seemed to be in a far off place. His back seethed with heat and his psyche screamed with suffering. He was in the final lashes of his sentence, and the young men assigned with inflicting it demonstrated their stamina by continuing to forcefully slap each stroke down across his unprotected back. The full force of their muscular arms, skillfully wielding their leather straps, evoked a shriek from his throat which was mirrored tenfold in his mind. His strong 22 year old back had never known such suffering. He had been disciplined by flogging before, but never like this. The declaration of war had certainly changed the tenor of authority in the ranks.
His back was a solid mass of thick blood blisters, some of which had broken, leaving thin streams of blood running down his skin. Over the course of a full 15 dozen lashes, the edges of the straps had many times wrapped around his lats, leaving a jagged line of vertical, dark purple welts running down his sides. Occasionally, the inflicting soldiers would step in and the strap would wrap around as far as the outer edges of his nipples. The cruelest lashes cut into his tender armpits.
“180! Halt!” ordered the sergeant in charge. He turned to look up at the officer, standing on the observation platform, saluted and reported, “Disciplinary action completed, sir, 15 dozen lashes laid on hard.”
“Cut him down,” the officer calmly ordered.
The young corporals stepped to the Y-shaped whipping post and began to release the prisoner. The touch of their calloused hands on his arms, as they lifted him off his heels to relieve the pressure on his wrists, evoked an involuntary sigh of relief which came out as a pathetic groan. The flogged soldier’s stomach was churning from the pain of his ordeal and he vomited bile as he collapsed to the ground.
Through clenched teeth, the angry commander ordered, “Get that man on his feet!”
The corporals roughly lifted the soldier to his feet to face the officer who had ordered his punishment for falling out of the morning run. Despite the heat and humidity of the summer morning, the soldier stood in a cold sweat, but as erect as any other man in the formation.
“Soldier, turn and face the platoon,” The flogged man and the attendant corporals all did a quick about-face. The officer continued: “This man was punished for malingering. As you can see from his face, the blood on his back, and the vomit this animal left on the ground, that he was beaten beyond his ability to endure it. This is what each of you can expect from this point forward. We are at war now and I will show idleness as much mercy as I show the enemy.”
“This man and his squad will labor and exercise shirtless today. Sergeants and corporals are to drive them with full force. I expect keen attention paid to their exposed backs. Malingering from any man in that squad will result in another session this evening for the malingerer and for this man.”
“Yes, sir!” snapped the sergeant, saluted and turned to his platoon. “3rd Squad, strip!” The men of 3rd squad didn’t hesitate to obey, quickly pulling their shirts over their heads. The flogged soldier was ordered to join them.
After shirts and been stuffed into their cargo pockets, the platoon was formed into running formation, with the flogged man at the center to ensure he kept up. The sergeant cracked his whip and shouted “Forward March!” Once the platoon began moving, he cracked his whip again and shouted “Double-time, March!” The troops began to sprint to the site of their day’s backbreaking labor: digging a line of defensive trenches.