*note: This post has profanity from my interview with the mercenaries
“I ain’t got a nickel to my name, and I guess that’s my problem”. These were Fred Willis’ words to me.
I’d met with him and two other mercenaries, a young Chilean named Pablo, and Irek, a Polish man in his 40s. We were at Mike’s, the café where I spoke with Nasreen a few weeks back. Seems to be a popular hang-out for the many contractors here.
All three men were feeling the crush of the country’s bankruptcy. They worked for the UFLL but had yet to see any cash. No surprise since the group financing the UFLL, Bastion UK, had essentially collapsed. Their stocks plummeted and the UFLL was left in the cold. These men were the ones being hit hardest.
Fred was practical about his options, “Ain’t no sense jumping to the APR. I don’t see how those f**kers could be better. Fact is I gotta find a way outta here. Time to go home.”
Easier said than done. Having spent all their own money while awaiting a payday, these men had no way of paying for the trip home. They were trapped in a no-win situation. No cash to get home. No way to make cash.
Irek , a stone-faced man, spoke in a deep baritone, “Hector knows something”. Hector Voorhees, a foreign contractor responsible for hiring most of the UFLL mercs.
I could tell that Fred and Pablo laid blame for their plight at Voorhees’ feet. But not Irek. He was convinced that staying close to Voorhees would be his way out.
“Hector has not left yet. We’ve done three tours together. You believe me, he hasn’t left because he has a plan.”
Fred shook his head slowly. I could see he’d reached his breaking point. He wanted out and he was going to find a way.
The whole time we spoke, Pablo sat quietly. I had expected more from the Chilean. Ones I’d met in the past had fiery personalities, but Pablo kept a slow-brew. At last he spoke, “We’ve been f**ked. F**ked by Voorhees, f**ked by the UFLL, f**ked by the Africans.”
It wasn’t just his language. Something in his narrow eyes and his breathing…panting really. He seemed on the verge of striking. I just prayed I was nowhere near him when he finally let loose. He added, “I’m done with them all. Now I work for me.”
As I left, Fred followed me out. He claimed the next time I heard from him, it’d be an email from his living room in Ohio, USA. I look forward to it.