She felt tears streaking down her face as she held his things in her arms. She thought she was prepared, knowing how the spouses of soldiers often feel. But things would end in an unexpected way.
After opening his laptop just to look through all the photos they took together, she found something very strange. It was an eerie message that would spark something.
EMILY AND MARK
Nothing made Emily happier than the day she married her husband, Mark. She saw a good future with her husband that would be full of happiness and joy. But soon his profession would challenge these goals.
Her husband was a lieutenant in the United States Military. He was a patriotic man that would do anything to fight for his country.
Mark’s happiest day came when Emily gave birth to their first baby – Brittany. He loved her more than anything else in the world. But his next deployment was approaching and he’d have to leave.
Emily knew that this was the harsh reality of being with a soldier. He would leave to Afghanistan soon and she’d be left to care for their child alone.
She didn’t want him to go, she had heard horror stories about soldiers deploying into Afghanistan. He was supposed to only be there for half a year. But things wouldn’t end that way.
She knew that the message pointed to a set of coordinates. She felt her heart race like an Olympic runner going for gold.
She had spent the first six months of his deployment going onto Facetime with him when he could afford to. The only thing keeping her going was that her husband would soon return.
But just as she spent hours preparing the house for Mark’s return, the phone would ring with some harrowing news.
The contact on her phone was “Hubby”. She grinned and assumed he was going to share his arrival time it was something far more sinister.
He said there would be a delay in his flight and then he quickly hung up the phone. Emily could hear the panic in his voice and wondered what was going on. He said he’d call her soon, so he just waited.
It had been days and now she was starting to worry. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong.
It had been over a week and she got a call from someone from the U.S. Army. He had grim news – her husband was MIA.
NOWHERE TO BE SEEN
After two whole months of failing to locate Mark, the U.S army sent his belongings back to his family. Emily accepted his belongings crying inconsolably. What happened to him? Why couldn’t they find him? He couldn’t have simply disappeared! Then the army listed him as KIA.
Emily couldn’t believe what she had just heard. How could her husband be KIA? Why wait months just to tell her he was killed in action?
Soon after the news, his personal belongings were sent back to Emily. She still didn’t understand what was going on. Why KIA instead of MIA? She wanted to know the truth.
She asked them to relist his status to MIA since there was no evidence that he was deceased. But she had no idea how close the answer was.
Emily finally mustered up enough courage to go through his belongings. She found his laptop, she thought that she’d maybe find some closure in the many photos of them that they saved on his laptop.
After getting into the laptop, Emily found a file on his desktop that said “To Emily”. She felt a knot form in her stomach. What was inside?
Another month passed before Emily had the courage to go through Mark’s belongings and open up his laptop. She had intended to look over photos he saved, but when the laptop opened up on a file addressed to her, her blood ran cold.
The letter made no sense. It was a love letter but it was full of errors and grammatical mistakes. Then it clicked. There was a pattern to this cryptic message.
She read the letter again. She struggled to make sense of it. She could read it but it didn’t sound like him. Something about the errors and random capitalized letters and numbers made her feel uneasy. She stared at them, trying to understand what he was thinking.
Then suddenly, it clicked. There was a pattern to his errors. This letter held a cryptic message.
DECODING THE MESSAGE
Emily raced to find a pen and wrote down all the capital letters and misplaced numbers. “Send Help”. Then she stared at the numbers in confusion. Was it a phone number?
She typed the numbers into google, but what came up with a coordinate reference. But it was nowhere near Afghanistan. She reversed the numbers and searched again. Her heart was pounding.
RACE AGAINST TIME
Emily’s mind raced. Time wasn’t on her side. She feared her husband was injured or gravely hurt. She did the best thing she thought she could under such circumstances and contacted his U.S Army base. But she should have listened.
It was obvious Mark was in some kind of trouble. But why was he reaching out to her? What did he get himself into?
Within a week, Emily heard back from the army. They found him. The school was a cover up to throw off American forces. It was actually a hidden prison. Their raid freed 12 soldiers who had been detained there – one of which was Mark. But why did Mark ask help from his wife instead of his team?
The reason was as heroic as it was disobedient.
PREPARING FOR THE WORST
Just as Mark was about to leave, he got a last minute order to leave his mission and go home. They were attempting to find the holding place of MIA soldiers. And just when Mark suspected that he found the site, they were ordered to abandon the mission.
Mark went directly against his orders and planned to infiltrate the suspicious building himself but he knew it was risky and sensed something might go wrong. He was right.
Mark observed the school in question a couple of times and noticed it was patrolled by the enemy. He put a bet on his own life by assuming this was a hidden prison.
He didn’t tell anyone as the mission was over. Still, he felt compelled to help and follow his instincts. But why write to Emily and not the military?
He knew that he was going against direct orders so he was hesitant to leave instructions to his colleagues in fear of being punished. He figured if you did get caught and ended up being imprisoned himself, at least he could give his wife the details she needed to find him.
She was the only one who could decipher his message and send help that might save him the punishment he’d surely face from disobeying orders from his commanders.
LACK OF INSTRUCTIONS
But he should have left more directions for his wife. She also didn’t know if he was injured or not and needed urgent help and he had no idea of the struggles she had been through in looking for him, especially after he was listed as KIA.
Once they figured out that the school was a front, they ordered the rescue mission. And Mark faced the consequences.
A STARK WARNING
Once Mark’s squad found out he sent a secret note to his wife revealing his location, they sent soldiers out straight away. They had no idea what he was thinking but were amazed when he led them to a hidden jail containing other MIA soldiers.
Because he had rescued other soldiers, his punishment was light but he was warned against ever acting on his own again before being sent home as planned.
Mark finally returned home safely to his loving family with quite a story to tell. He had remained detained in the hidden jail for 3 months before Emily managed to figure out where he was.
He was delighted to be reunited with his girls, and Emily was more than relieved to have him safely back home. This story is a work of fiction, created solely for entertainment purposes.
Mark’s heroic gesture moved the military to reassess most of the cold trails and dead ends they met while searching for troops.
They considered having overlooked certain areas in the region that could be fronts for prisons, like the school where Mark had spent the last three years. It was clear that they needed to reopen the cold cases.
Soldiers missing in action has been one of the most significant issues for any military worldwide. Losing one’s soldiers can mean they are facing harsher situations out there.
Such situations can harm these troops and detriment the potency of the military’s operations. Information can be leaked, and more lives can be harmed. But how far back does this go?
DECADES OF CONFLICT
Soldiers missing in action has existed for as long as civilizations have stood. In the 20th and 21st centuries, the world has been dunked in several conflicts that have claimed many lives.
Through research and coordination between the American government and other nations globally, an estimate regarding the number of soldiers missing in action has been established.
Between the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and other conflicts in the Gulf Area, an estimated 82 500 service people were reported missing in action.
Such a staggering number has pushed reforms within the military in recent years, culminating in the encouraging news we are about to share.
A BETTER TOMORROW
The war in Afghanistan ended with zero soldiers missing in action. After twenty years of combat, every soldier was accounted for, celebrated, and honored for their service.
The military is continuing to refine its approach to finding lost soldiers. No one will be left behind in the quest to make the world a better place.
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.