Sergeant Camacho was not having it.
“It is an order. You will shave your mustaches by the end of the day or face disciplinary action!”
No one moved. No one dared say anything. They just stood in attention, still in disbelief. Camacho, a veteran of two wars, poured cold water from his canteen cup into his mess kit. He applied some soapy water to his face and started shaving off his mustache with a straight razor. The soldiers from B company started doing the same.
Camacho fell ill, unnerved. He finished hurriedly and walk outside the tent. The snow was thick even though it was only October. But he kept walking- he felt the need to be as far away from his men as possible. Once within the tree line he stopped and started puking, fell to his knees and punched the white ground until his fists hurt.
As always, he had led by example. But this time was different. He was a good sergeant. He knew his job was to enforce the officers’ orders but this was too much. His men were not boys, much less cowards. They had been defeated back to back and forced to withdraw recently. But that was happening all along the lines, from the Turks and Brits further east and the whole American forces and South Koreans to the west. Why then would his men, and the whole regiment, be single out as boys, as cowards who needed to prove in combat that they were brave men? Why them? All of a sudden, he no longer felt American and Puerto Rican. He thought he could never be both. He made his way back to the lines and into the tent, briefed his men and went to bed- always the last to bed and the first one to get up.
Tomorrow would be another day, but things had changed.
The battle for Outpost Kelly had been a major catastrophe for the Borinqueneers; soon a worse calamity would befall them. This time, however, they would not hold to the last man.