TITLE: Lost in Thought
STORY TYPE: Point of View / First Person (Hannibal)
LENGTH: One-offDISCLAIMER: The characters are property of Cannell and company.
I can feel the rain gently falling on my face and hair. I forgot the umbrella. Not that I really mind, of course. I experienced enough rain in 'Nam. I sigh deeply. I am not happy.
A job has come to the end, a hard job. It looked like none of us would survive, and somehow we beat the odds again. How did we do this? The jazz and the devils luck, as usual. Seeing BA shot in the arm was bad, and watching him fall. I suddenly felt the first jab of fear. I forced myself to reach back and bring the big man to his feet, and pull him along beside me.
Was it that fear that is pissing me off now? I don't know. I feel sad, and I don't understand why I should. The rain is gentle and the sky a little dismal, but that doesn't get me down. Never has.
Maybe the reason is becuase I am in a graveyard. Its a graveyard dedicated to those who fought and died in the first and second world wars. Its vast and looks white with the many headstones. The grass is not visible. I stand reading the headstones, looking up at the American flag standing proud and tall, flapping in the slight breeze.
There are so many graves here, so many bodies. I am forcing myself to breathe as sharp memories of 'Nam flood my mind. I turn away, to be confronted my more gravestones. I panic slightly, and then pull myself together. Why am I feeling this way? I am thinking back to try and count how many men died under my command. Its a curse born to any leader in war, the pain of death. Those under your command dropping dead by your feet. And you are powerless to stop it, to stop the carnage. Cursing and fighting against the enemy, your only release becomes their death.
Maybe that's why my only real friends are still the men who were with me during my hellish days in Vietnam. I like to reassure myself that I didn't fail everybody.
I am passing a Captain's grave with the same name as Murdock. A shudder passes through me, and I step away. Dedicated gravestone from his wife, he died to save all of us. What a morbid place. Why am I here? I think its important to remind ourselves of the sacrifices those who died made for us. Respect is a neccesary quality to have when thinking of these brave and selfless soldiers.
I am not alone. An old woman is walking among the tombstones. I glance up at her, and she sees me, and then stops dead. I find myself walking towards her, entranced as she lays flowers by a specific gravestone.
"Hello" I say as cheerfully as I can, under the circumstances. The grave she is kneeling beside is immaculately maintained. Its beautiful, and she turns to me and smiles.
The bravest smile I have ever seen. This woman is strong, has seen a lot. I smile back and kneel beside the grave. "Your husband?".
The woman shakes her head, and continues arranges the flowers steadily. "My brother. Who did you lose in the war?".
I think for a moment. "A few uncles, distant relatives. None of them are here. I came ..... for another reason".
The woman understands. "You came to pay respect? Did you fight in Vietnam?".
"Yes. Although that seems like a long time ago".
"I thought so. What was your ranking?". She asks gently.
"Lieutenant Colonel". I reply, answering her questions without a second thought.
"You have the most amazing silver hair I have ever seen" She says sweetly. I smile.
"What happened?" I ask, nodding towards the grave.
"He died protecting his unit, when he single handedly attacked and destroyed as enemy machine-gun pillbox. His platoon had been pinned down by intense fire from the pillbox. He was wounded in the first burst of enemy fire. He crawled towards the pillbox and was wounded a second time but continued to advance, firing his rifle as he did so. He closed on the pillbox, attacking and destroying it with hand grenades, but in doing so was wounded a third time and killed".
I listen, fascinated. Tales of bravery appeal to me, and she puts her hand on my shoulder and rises to leave. I stay a moment longer, watching her walk away, and then looking at the grave and intently read the inscription.
----Young, Roger W. Private. 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division (the Ohio Buckeyes); born Tiffin, Ohio, 28 April 1918, died 31 July 1943, on the island New Georgia, Solomons, South Pacific. His bold and gallant action in the face of overwhelming odds enabled his teammates to escape without loss; he was awarded posthumously the Medal of Honour.----
I feel an overwhelming rush of admiration, and my sadness evaporates. I reach into my pocket and pull out a medal I won a long time ago. I place this on Private Young's grave, and stand up. I salute without realising what I am doing. Then turn and walk away.
As I pass the American flag I feel a surge of strength overwhelm me with confidence. I leave thinking of that brave soldier, and what sacrifices he made to ensure his unit would survive. I hope and pray that under similar circumstances I would act the same way. One thing is for certain, no matter what happens in the future. I shall honour the sacrifices those men made, and will try and lead my unit to success.
DEDICATION: To Private Roger Young, who died in New Georgia while bravely protecting his platoon. Dedication to Robert A. Heinlein who wrote the spectacular futuristic, military novel, Starship Troopers - and for the true story of Private Young. To Rita, for her commitment to the soldiers who fought in 'Nam and for her inspirational stories and words of encouragement generally.
And, a special, heartfelt dedication to those who fought and died in the World Wars. If we ever forget what sacrifices you have made for us, we do not deserve our lives or our freedom.