Lieutenant Steven Colee stared in disbelief at the dilapidated house his beautiful wife was forced to call home. It brought back images of the ramshackle buildings he saw in Iraq. Steven and Marsha Colee were bankrupt. The mortgage company had given them 30 days to pay up or default. The chuckle of a CEO resonated in Steven’s head. The poor deluded veteran who thought he was fighting for the American way of life only to come home and lose everything. That American way of life Steven believed in had changed, shifted like dunes in a storm. His heart swelled into a deluge of tears and rage. “How could this happen?” He began to understand when some in the press started calling the country he once respected the Corporate States of America. By the end of the month, the Colees were homeless. Moving in with Marsha’s parents, Steven felt like a brush fire in a dry wind. The morning he decided to leave, Marsha pleaded, but Steven’s ego wouldn’t let him stay.
Two months later, Steven woke up on a cot in a homeless shelter. His formerly short-cropped hair now hung like raveled string below his shoulders. A birds-nest beard covered his face. His false pride opposed any thought of going back to the woman he adored. Flying on the wings of self-determination, his wax wings quickly dissolved in the heat of the sun. Realizing too late how much he needed Marsha, Steven meekly became lost in a jungle of nameless faces; many of them veterans like him. Depression gripped him like a crocodile death roll.
Steven was on his usual corner when a revelation hit him like a bolt of lightning. He tore up his cardboard sign and shouted with a voice like thunder, “I am a decorated officer who saved the lives of three soldiers caught in a sniper attack. I killed over 100 insurgents. I can save my family and home! Today I am awake.” Walking back to the shelter his outlook became as brilliant as a rainbow after a storm. Later that night he assembled the veterans and asked them to join together in fighting a new adversary, their own homeland.
Weekly meetings were held at the local VFW Hall. Each meeting attracted more veterans, most of whom were homeless and jobless. Like a flock of geese they found unity and encouragement in each other. They began formulating a strategy with Steven being voted in as the leader of their unit, aptly named The Deceived. After three months of maneuvers and tactical preparation, the operation, code name American Way, was put into action.
Marsha turned on the local news just as a Special Report was being broadcast.
“… Senator McPaul and Governor Walkie have been taken hostage by a band of displaced veterans led by Lt. Steven Colee. We will continue to update you on the situation at the State House as we receive information.”
Marsha turned pale. She had met with Governor Walkie the day before. Like an accomplice giving a confession, he exposed all of Senator McPaul’s lies and corrupt ambitions. Grabbing her keys off the table, she began running out the front door when her mother appeared. “I’m going to be with Steven; he needs me.”
“Lt. Colee. This is Chief of Police Brobak of the Collenville Police Department. Come out and we can discuss your situation. I’m sure we can find a solution. Be advised that you have until 5:00 before we take action. That leaves you one hour to end this standoff.”
“Well Lieutenant. What are you going to do?” asked Senator McPaul.
“I am willing to die for what I believe in, Senator. Are you?” The senator, who would not have won the election without the financial backing from billionaire corporate benefactors, was silent. “That’s what I thought,” replied Steven.
“I can’t take this anymore. I was just doing what he demanded,” said a guilt-ridden Governor Walkie pointing at McPaul. “Talk to your wife. She knows.” Steven and McPaul noticed the governor now had gun in his right hand. Glaring at the senator, he roared, “I told her everything!”
McPaul attacked the governor like a blitzing linebacker, wrestling him to the ground. “You coward! I would have been president and you; rich beyond your wildest dreams. We would have had it all!” They continued their battle, rolling on the floor like two brothers fighting for supremacy.
At 4:58 p.m. a shot was heard from inside the State House. The Collentown Police opened fire on the enemy encircling the perimeter, killing or seriously wounding over half. They rushed inside to find the senator’s lifeless body on the floor, a scarlet torrent oozing from his chest; .357 revolver by his left side. Looking over his shoulder, Steven saw 15 officers with the look of old-west gunslingers in their eyes. As he started to raise his hands, one of the lawmen drew first and shot Lt. Colee in the spine, paralyzing him from the waist down. It was later discovered none of The Deceived had guns. It was a peaceful demonstration.
Marsha arrived just in time to see Steven being loaded onto a medical helicopter. She rushed over to him and through her tears she cried, “I met with Governor Walkie yesterday, but I didn’t know where you were. We won, Steven.”
The day he was released from the hospital, Steven and Marsha were outside their newly remodeled home. Reporters and TV cameras were descending upon them like a swarm of bees. “We are grateful for the people who made this possible,” said Steven looking into one of the cameras. “I pray that all homeless veterans can get the same opportunity as us.” Steven repositioned his wheelchair and opened the door. He followed Marsha into the house, leaving the press clamoring for more.
Entering the house Marsha gasped when she saw the renovations. Her tears flowed like mountain streams. Steven joined her few seconds later. “Why did it have to come to this?”