Nobody Rings This Bell
Thomas Calabrese — Cody Bell was born and raised in Vista, California and was the eldest of three brothers; Casey was five years younger than Cody and Cole was seven years younger. He was a natural athlete who played football, basketball and baseball in high school, as well as excelling in amateur boxing. Cody originally thought that boxing would help him with his other sports by increasing his quickness and improving his footwork. After a few weeks of training at Marcus Herrera’s small gym on Emerald Avenue, Marcus approached the teenage boy with these three words, “You’ve got potential.”
After a few months of intense training, Cody entered the local Golden Gloves tournament in San Diego. After winning there, he went on to victories at the regionals, state and nationals. He fought in several boxing matches against European fighters and was invited to the Olympic Trials, but he decided to take a different path. Cody was having Sunday dinner with his family when he brought up the subject that had been on his mind for a while, “I’ve been thinking long and hard about joining the military.”
“That’s a big step, are you sure?” Robert Bell asked his son.
“Yeah I am.”
Sarah Bell was obviously concerned about her oldest boy, “You have so much going on in your life right now, why don’t you wait a while?”
“Who knows when things will slow down or if they ever will,” Cody replied, “I want to serve my country and even if others things do change, I’m pretty sure that won’t.”
“What about boxing and the Olympic trials?” Casey asked.
“That’s a tough one, but there’s always boxing in the military if I still want to do it once I get in,” Cody shrugged.
“You said that you were pretty sure, right?” Robert Bell commented.
“Yeah,” Cody replied.
“Why don’t we have some further discussions about it, which services you are considering; what you want to do, risks and rewards, then at least you’ll be making an informed decision. Sound reasonable?”
“Sounds reasonable to me,” Cody smiled, “Thanks dad.”
“For what, I didn’t do anything?”
“Yeah, you did, you didn’t try to talk me out of it,” Cody said.
“It wouldn’t have done any good,” Robert Bell admitted.
Over the next month, the Bell family discussed various issues while Cody thoroughly evaluated each branch of the military. He eliminated the Army when he found out that he needed to be in four years before he could apply for Delta Force. The Marines had Force Reconnaissance, the Navy had the SEALS and the Air Force had Pararescue. With each of these elite units, he could go directly into them if he passed the entry test and made it through the difficult training. When he made his decision, he told his family, “This was not easy for me, but I do believe I’ve made the right choice.”
“What have you decided?” Robert Bell asked.
“Air Force parajumpers.”
“That sounds dangerous, what do they do?” Sarah Bell inquired.
“They rescue downed pilots and people in trouble,” Cody responded.
“They go behind enemy lines like secret agents,” Cole blurted out.
“They don’t call them secret agents anymore, they’re called covert operatives,” Casey corrected his brother.
“They are more like airborne paramedics,” Cody pulled out the brochure and began to read, “Pararescuemen, also known as PJ’s are part of the Air Force’s Special Operations Command. They are tasked with recovery and medical treatment of personnel in humanitarian and combat environments. They also work with special operations teams from all branches to conduct operations as appropriate.”
Cody thought that he was prepared for the physical hardships of training, but it was by far the hardest thing that he had ever done and while he never really gave any serious thought to quitting, he couldn’t help but question his decision when things got extremely rough. He spent ten grueling weeks at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas swimming, running, weight training, doing calisthenics and challenging a variety of obstacle courses. The educational training included medical and diving terminology, CPR, weapons qualifications and dive physics. Cody graduated third in his class then went to the following schools for specialized training; airborne, combat divers, underwater egress training, basic survival, free fall parachutist, combat medic and recovery specialist. One year later, Cody was deployed to Afghanistan and was stationed with a group of Navy SEALS and Marine Corps recon personnel at forward operating base Condor.
The men were playing tackle football on a makeshift dirt field behind the chow facility. Cody was playing quarterback and the game had been going on for two hours. The elite warriors were battered, bloodied, exhausted and loving every minute of it. These were America’s best and challenge and competition was part of their DNA.
Chief Petty Officer Bob Meredith of Seal Team Two spit out a mouthful of blood, “Next touchdown wins!”
“No problem, I suppose you want the ball first?” Cody replied.
“After all it was my idea, unless you’re scared?”
“It’s fine with me, but let me check with my team first,” Cody responded.
A variety of comments echoed across the field and when the raucous bantering died down, Cody responded by yelling to the other side of the field, “I guess everybody feels sorry for you…take the ball.”
The teams faced off against each other, one on each end of the field and Cody kicked off. The football sailed high into air and landed into the waiting arms of Bob Meredith. He took off at a full sprint and sidestepped two Marine defenders, who were left grasping at air. Just when he thought he had a clear path to a score, the Navy Seal found himself tossed into the air and the ball being separated from his grip. When Chief Petty Officer Bob Meredith looked up from the ground, he saw Cody Bell racing across the goal line. He stood up and applauded, “Well done.”
They may have been competitors on the field, but they were still brothers in arms when the game was over. Pop..pop..pop went the cans of beer as the men quenched their thirst.
Suddenly Captain Issacs called out, “Listen up! We’ve got a mission…briefing in 15 minutes.”
Twenty men crowded into a building that was reinforced by several rows of sandbags. Captain Issacs wasted no time explaining the situation “We’ve got a plane that went down in this location,” and pointed to a mountainous location on the map. “This is Taliban territory so we can expect heavy resistance.” Bravo Team will take the left flank; Alpha and Delta have the right flank. Pararescue, you’ll do a HALO (high altitude low opening ) jump over the site, medically treat the pilot and co-pilot for their injuries and secure the area until they are evacuated. All teams will then rendezvous at these coordinates,” Captain Issacs pointed to an area just below the crash site.
Cody and his team parachuted out of the MC-130 and used their laser targeting equipment to land within 50 feet of the downed aircraft. Two snipers found an area where they could provide cover so that Cody and the medic could treat the injured pilots. The Navy SEALs and Marines were engaged in heavy firefights about 200 yards from Cody’s position. Once the injured pilots were ready for transport, a medivac chopper was called and they were airlifted out. Several minutes later, an S-64 SkyCrane hovered overhead and lowered several cables which were attached to the damaged aircraft. Once that was done, Cody and his team connected to the cables with their special harnesses. The SkyCrane picked up the plane and flew over the area where the SEALS and Marines were fighting and the pararescue team provided additional support by firing down on the enemy from their elevated position.
Cody Bell served five years in various locations around the world, in most cases they were highly volatile and dangerous assignments. Whether he was working with other top tier operators or just with his elite team, Cody distinguished himself in combat and high risk situations. Because of his stellar record, he was assigned to Edwards Air Force Base in California to help train rescue teams from other military services. While Cody would have preferred to stay on the front lines, he realized the value of imparting his knowledge to other military members. He would also be closer to home and that was definitely an advantage to being stateside. One other opportunity that presented itself was that Cody was able to resume boxing.
Cole Bell envied his older brother a little too much and it clouded his judgement, so instead of trying to be his best, he kept comparing himself to Cody. The problem was that Cole was never going to as good as his older sibling. That reality was like a festering wound that would not heal because Cole kept picking at it. He found a mixed martial arts gym in Oceanside and trained relentlessly and would often come home battered and bruised because he was routinely challenging other members to sparring sessions, sometimes getting in the ring three times in one day. The Bell family concern escalated when Cole’s behavior changed from easy-going to irritable, defensive and short tempered.
When Cody came home on weekend leave, his parents asked him to talk with his brother so he went down to Combat Fitness to watch his brother train. After a sparring session where Cole got over-exuberant and hurt his opponent’s elbow even after the man tapped out, Cody approached his brother with genuine concern, “That guy tapped out, you were supposed to let him go.”
“You fight your way and I’ll fight mine,” Cole snapped back.
“The thing about training is you can overdo it,” Cody commented.
“You’re the last person to tell me about overtraining. All that I’ve ever heard my whole life was what a hard worker that you are and once you set your mind to something, you don’t stop until you’ve accomplish it. On and on and on, it’s a story that never ends.”
“I’d like to think that I had some balance in my life, “Cody replied.
“Maybe you thought so, but nobody else saw it that way.”
“I’m glad you brought it to my attention, I’ll try to be more careful in the future,” Cody said, “Remember if you don’t pull up when your opponent is beaten, then they won’t pull up when you’re in trouble.”
“Did mom and dad ask you to talk to me?”
“They’re worried, we all are,” Cody answered.
“You go off to fight terrorists and they have confidence in your abilities,” Cole grumbled, “I want to be a fighter and they think I’m going to get hurt. The difference is that they’ve always believed in you, but not me. I’m going to prove all of you wrong…just wait and see. I’m not asking for favors or mercy and I’m not giving any,” Cole stormed out of the restaurant.
Dimitri Raggo grew up in the slums of Tirana, Albania. Even as a boy he knew that the only way out of poverty was to fight his way out. After winning over twenty five pick up fights, Dimitri was approached by Goran Radici, a gangster and human trafficker with an offer that the teenage boy could not resist, “You’ll never be hungry again if you fight for me.”
Over the eight years Dimitri put on 80 pounds of solid muscle as he moved up in weight class from a skinny mediocre middleweight to an undefeated wrecking ball heavyweight. His head was shaved and tattooed and when he fought he kept his chin tucked into his chest, daring his opponents to smash their knuckles into his hard head. His legs were as solid as tree trunks and his arms were pile driver strong. Goran not only wanted Dimitri to win, but he wanted him to punish and hurt his opponents at every opportunity. After destroying every challenger in Europe and Asia, Goran decided to take Dimitri to America. Offering a ten million dollar purse to anyone who could defeat Raggo, Radici worked out a multi-million dollar, pay per view, ten fight deal with HBO and Wynn Entertainment in Las Vegas.
Cody won the Air Force heavyweight title then went to Oklahoma City to fight in the Armed Forces Boxing Championships. He defeated the Navy champion with a knockout in the fifth round. Just when Cole thought that he was making a name for himself, his brother stole his thunder. Even though he was rated in the top ten in California, Cole felt the only way that he was ever going to get any respect was to beat someone of importance or notoriety.
Dimitri Raggo was fighting every three months and he was becoming more brutal with each bout. Radici and his entourage of thugs were living at the 6000 square foot Imperial suite at the Wynn Hotel. After the sixth fight, it became difficult to find anyone who was willing to get into the cage with Raggo, no matter what the purse amount was. The last three challengers were hospitalized for broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.
Radici had become accustomed to the money and the decadent lifestyle it brought him. There were still had four more fights on this contract and he hoped to sign another one for even more money. He couldn’t allow it to end because they couldn’t find any opponents, “What the hell is going on! We need fighters.”
“If Dimitri didn’t hurt everybody so bad, we might be able to find someone,” Marko Bukvic commented.
“That’s what people are paying for. If Dimitri takes it easy then he becomes no different than any other fighter,” Radici took a long swallow from a bottle of whiskey and angrily threw the container across the room, “Find me a fighter now!!”
The word was circulated to fighting gyms around the country and when Cole read the call for fighters, he drove to Las Vegas, bound and determined to get a fight with Dimitri Raggo. Cole was far being from being a contender or even a qualified opponent for the Albanian Assassin, but Radici was desperate so he agreed. They billed the fight as the common man against the champion.
The Bell family was obviously worried and did their best to talk Cole out of the fight, but he was stubborn and adamant about proceeding ahead so all they could do was support his decision. Casey was able to convince his younger brother into coming back to Marcus Herrera’s gym to train while Cody came back from Edwards Air Force Base every chance he got to be his brother’s sparring partner.
It was only two weeks from the fight date and Cody and Marcus were having a private conversation, “What do you think his chances are?” Cody asked.
“Slim and none,” Marcus sighed, “Raggo is a monster and Cole is a journeyman fighter at his very best.”
“I know, I’m just hoping that he doesn’t get hurt.”
On the night of the fight, Dimitri was angry and frustrated that he was forced into a fight with someone that he felt didn’t deserve the right to be in the same cage with him. When the bout started, Dimitri came out of his corner with the intention of ending this farce in the first round. Cole did his best, throwing lefts and rights and kicking with both legs, but it was a futile endeavor, Dimitri just kept walking forward. He pinned Cole against the metal cage and pounded him relentlessly. Cody yelled from the audience, “Get out of there!”
Cole was literally knocked out on his feet, but Dimitri did not stop his brutal attack. He pushed the referee out of the way when he tried to intervene and landed an additional barrage of punches and kicks before stopping. He snarled at the Bell family who were sitting ringside and gave the thumbs down sign and spit.
When the doctors examined the unconscious Cole at the hospital, they determined that he had significant brain swelling and recommended that he be kept in a medically induced coma. Cody was consumed with guilt that he was not able to protect his younger brother.
“You couldn’t have talked him out it, none of us could,” Robert Bell consoled his oldest son.
“I should have tried harder.”
When he got back to Edwards Air Force Base, Cody requested mast to see General Michael Gibbs, his unit commander.
“I’m sorry to hear about your brother,” General Gibbs said.
“Thank you sir,” Cody replied, “I’m here to ask a favor.”
“Considering all that you’ve done for this country, you’ve got the right,” General Gibbs responded, “What I can do for you?”
“I want to resign from the military.”
“You’re too valuable an asset to lose; I can’t approve that request at this time.”
“My family needs me right now,” Cody said more forcefully.
General Gibbs reached into his desk drawer and pulled out an envelope and handed it to Cody.
“What’s this?” Cody asked.
“You have been transferred to in-active reserves for six months. At the end of that time, we’ll resume this conversation and your future in the Air Force. Go take care of your family.”
“Thank you, sir.”
One week later, Cody was meeting with Goran and Dimitri at their suite in Las Vegas, “I’ve got an offer for you.”
“What is it?” Goran asked.
“I’m the Armed Forces boxing champion and you can make a lot of money if you market this fight correctly.”
“This wouldn’t have anything to do with your brother?” Goran asked
“It has everything to do with him,” Cody answered, “That’s the second part; you can also call it a revenge match…that should help you get more viewers.”
“I like it…military hero sets out to avenge brother’s loss…it’s a moneymaker, you’ve got a deal,” Goran laughed.
Dimitri stood up to confront Cody, “I will hurt you just like I did to your brother and then you can join him in the hospital. I promise you that.”
Cody spit in Dimitri’s face, “Go for it,” and walked out.
The massive Albanian could barely control his anger.
When Cody returned to his Oceanside, his first stop was Marcus Herrera’s home. He knocked on the door and when Marcus opened it, he said, “We’re going after the Albanian, aren’t we?”
At 0500 the next morning Cody was already on the beach running wind sprints. He approached his training like he did with his combat missions, he left nothing to chance. After several hours of intense exercise, Cody would drive over to the extended care facility where his younger brother had been moved and even though Cole was no longer under medication for brain swelling, he still remained unconscious. Cody would go over the events of his day with his motionless and silent sibling.
Dimitri continued to train like he always had; six intense rounds of sparring and one hour of power lifting every day. It was amazing to witness the brute strength of the Albanian who squatted nine hundred pounds 8 times and benched pressed five hundred pounds 6 times as part of his training regimen.
Promoters hyped the fight as the Veteran vs Vanquisher, and it became the world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion in history. It had 5 million pay-per–view buys and expected to yield $350 million dollars from that revenue stream alone. The event was also expected to produce an additional $20 million in gate receipts from a sold out crowd.
Cody watched hours of Dimitri Raggo’s fight footage as he looked for weaknesses that he could exploit in their bout. On the evening of the event, Robert and Sarah Bell came into the dressing room to wish their son good luck.
“Where’s Casey?” Cody asked.
“He said he’d be here,” Sarah said.
A man knocked on the door, “Three minutes!”
As Cody walked down the hallway to the Grand Ballroom with Marcus by his side, he heard a voice that he recognized, “Hold up!” When he turned around he saw Casey pushing a pale and weak Cole in a wheelchair. He rushed over and embraced his younger brother as Casey interjected, “I was telling him about the fight and all of a sudden he wakes up. The doctor didn’t want to release him, but we sneaked out and drove like hell to get here.”
Cole’s voice was barely audible, “You don’t have to do this for me.”
“I know, but somebody has to stop Raggo,” Cody responded, “I might as well be the one to try.”
“I’ve got a lot to apologize for, not just to you, but the entire family,” Cole said.
“We’ll talk about it after the fight.”
“Don’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep,” Cole’s voice got stronger.
Cody smiled at his family as he stepped into the octagon. Dimitri glared and pounded his fists against each other. It had no effect on Cody who remained focused on the task at hand.
Marcus shouted over the crowd noise, “Just like we planned.”
“Roger that,” Cody replied then added, “Thanks for all your help.”
“If you want to thank me then beat this guy.”
Cody was forty pounds lighter than Dimitri and unlike the Albanian who derived his power from his strength and bulk, he got his from speed, quickness and technique. The two men came out of their respective corners, Dimitri as usual had his chin tucked into his chest and kept his hands alongside his face while his elbows protected his ribcage. He offered his head as an inviting target, but Cody wisely declined the invitation. The Armed Forces Champion snapped out a powerful left jab, but instead of using his knuckles, he used the heel of his hand. A dozen blows hit Dimitri’s forehead and startled him, “You’re pretty good,” he smiled.
When Dimitri raised his hands to protect his forehead, he exposed his ribs and Cody stepped forward and unleashed vicious body punches. No matter what Dimitri did, Cody had an answer. When the Albanian lowered his hands, Cody went to the face or threw the heel jab. After five rounds, Dimitri was battered, bruised and completely frustrated. He charged out of his corner and pinned Cody against the fence, who put his forearm under Dimitri’s chin and pushed his head back then drove a powerful punch into his face. The Albanian went down and Cody placed him in a hammerlock. (this move involves putting the arm behind an opponent’s back and pushing the wrist and hand towards the back of the neck. It puts pressure on the shoulder in a brutal and excruciatingly painful fashion.)
Dimitri had no choice, but to tap out, but he was not ready to accept defeat. When Cody turned around to walk back toward his corner, he charged at him. At the last split second Cody turned around and drove an uppercut to the chin of the Albanian. Cody knew that there was only one way to be sure that Dimitri was finished so he hit the massive man with lefts and rights until he finally finished him with a powerful right cross. Dimitri toppled forward like a cut tree and when he hit the canvas this time he did not move.
The Albanian made two serious tactical errors in his fight with Cody Bell. His first one was that he underestimated the resolve and skills of an American Special Forces Warrior who would always rise to the occasion. The second one flashed across his mind about the same time that the devastating punch landed squarely on his chin; Nobody Rings This Bell.