Where Did They Go?

It’s time for the annual Memorial Day piece of flash fiction. For my long-suffering readers, there is a theme I bring back from time to time. Today’s post is a part of that series. For the uninitiated, you will quickly figure it out. Either way, spend some time today reflecting on the sacrifice of our military over the years so that we can all be free today.

I hope you’ll visit the other authors who comprise this collection: Paul Bennett, Robert CelyDerek Elkins, Jamie D. Greening, Kathy Kexel, and Joe Shaw. As always, there’s no fee, we’re doing this to help you pass the time. We do ask that you buy our books/audio books to help pay the freight here. But that’s up to you! Mine are all on the right margin of the blog.

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Where Did They Go?

“It’s already 0800 and they don’t have the tent set up. Did they move it to another area?”

“Excellent question, Lieutenant. Let’s send out a patrol. They used to hold it a couple of hundred yards to the west of here. I’ll send the boys.”

Twenty minutes later the entire property had been scoured. No sign of the tent, the chairs, or even of any significant number of mourners. 

“Lieutenant, there’s not even much in the way of flags. I only counted about twenty. The Boy Scouts must have skipped this cemetery.” 

The senior members assembled decided to have a chat away from the others. 

Colonel Westherburg came up with the answer: “This must be the deal the new Chief was talking about. They guy who was on the Roosevelt. I’ll bet they’re all still under some kind of a quarantine.”

Tashishi, the senior enlisted man present, said, “That’s nuts. He was telling me it only takes out about 2% of those who get sick, and mainly the elderly. Where are all the young people.”

Westerburg sadly looked over the men milling about, the looks of disappointment clear on their ghostly faces. They had just a few days each year where they could see their families, and Memorial Day was always the most important. Plus, they got to drink a beer at the local bars. 

“I guess they’ve forgotten about “the land of the free, and the home of the brave” part. What was the survival rate for your first wave in Italy?”

Tahishi didn’t hesitate, “I don’t know. I got killed by a mortar about 20 yards from the beach. Nah, seriously, we took 30% casualties the first day. The first week it wound up being around 20% dead from the guys in the first three waves. Nothing like in the Pacific, or on Omaha beach. Man, those guys got slaughtered.”

A few people wandered from parked cars, wearing masks in the vast spaces of the cemetery. They put flowers on graves, or just stood quietly for a few minutes.

Around 0930 a bright SUV pulled up where the tent usually stood. A fat guy in an American Legion hat stepped out, as did a woman. A few minutes later they were joined by seven other people. When they were all assembled, they walked to the open section of the grass, and performed the ceremony honoring the dead. There was no tent, no priests, no crowd,  but he’d pledged to be there and honor his friends until the day he died, and he was a man of his word. He’d taken an oath, just like all of them. 

Just off to the side was the ghostly crew of Ranger 12, observing the ceremony. They’d all served together decades before. Time couldn’t break the bond. 

The ghostly army around him stood at attention and rendered salutes at the appropriate moments. It was all over and done in 20 minutes. The man, with tears in his eyes, stood and looked out over the cemetery for a few minutes before departing.

“He never misses, does he?”

“Nope. Just goes to show he’s not here for the crowd.”

After a time, all the vets turned toward the flagpole and saluted as noon came, and a lone worker raised the flag to full staff. 

“I guess it will never be the same, will it?”

The Colonel shook his head. “I wouldn’t count this country down yet, Lieutenant. They’ll be just like some of the old guys from the revolution. The tyrants have overstepped, they’ve kept people locked down too long, treated them like kids. And it will all kick off again. Americans are way tougher than this. I suspect by Christmas it will be back to normal.”

The Lieutenant watched a young family get in their car and leave.

“I really hope so, Colonel. I’d hate to think we all wasted the effort, and our lives, on a nation that gives in to tyranny that easily.”

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