Coast To Coast, A Trip For The Ghost

This year we visit some more recent history in our Memorial Day essay. Enjoy the day, but remember the reason. They deserve it.

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“You know, Espinoza, that even for a Lance Corporal “Coast to coast, a trip for the ghost” is pretty lame. Seriously, can’t you do any better?”

Espinoza glanced up from the piece of pie he was inhaling, wiped his mouth and said, “All due respect, Staff Sergeant, but for a Marine that’s about as good as it’s going to get. You’re the big-deal sky-trooper, can’t you come up with your own?”

Staff Sergeant Hoover slapped his hand on the table. “You guys knock it off. We get one day a year to visit and check on our families. I’m not going to send it with all of you bickering. We bought it together, and we’re tied for eternity as a result. I fully expect everyone, boot and staff NCO to behave like adults. This day is about us, and seeing our loved ones. Don’t make me sweat box you for the next 364 days. You know I’ll smoke the grinder with your butts.”

A murmured “Aye, Staff Sergeant” came from the other 12.

Ever since the jihadist blew them up in Kabul, this unlikely group of Marines, a Sailor  and a Soldier had embarked on a trip through eternity as a unit. Most days it was pretty good as they shared a common purpose as they had in life. But days like this, where they refreshed the constantly dimming link with the living, were tough for all of them. Girlfriends, boyfriends, and family members all continued on in life, but they were frozen in youth – and each other’s company.

Lance Corporal Espinoza wiped the pie off of his chin and checked his uniform. Today was a day to be STRAC and present well. “Sorry, Staff Sergeant. I apologize to our resident sky-trooper.”

That earned him a love tap from Knauss, but it was good natured. “You’re forgiven, retard.”

And just like that, all was well with the group. 

They’d covered the Eastern Seaboard first this morning, and followed the dawn across their nation. A little hopping around in the central part of the continent and then a swing south to Texas before hitting California where most of the families remained.

Every stop was a mixed blessing. Children had grown, loved ones sickened and died, and the sense of sadness, and honor, around the pictures on mantles and coffee tables was a bit overwhelming. 

Each family seemed to sense them, and for days they’d find things slightly out of place, including chunks of pie and candy jars gone missing. Here and there a beer vanished, but for the most part their visits were marked by household pets wagging their tails and curling around legs. They knew even if the humans did not.

At sunset, peering out at the Pacific from Oceanside, California, they sat on the beach and thought about what they were missing in their absence from the land of the living. Each looked at the others surrounding them, and decided that if forever was going to be spent with those with them at their time of death, they’d gotten the best unit ever. 

As the green flash blipped on the horizon, the 13 stood as one and marched into Heaven for another year. Next Memorial Day, they had decided, they’d do it again. And again. And again. For they had given their all to the nation they served and would forever be bound to their comrades fallen in battle.

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Please enjoy your time with family this weekend. Remember those who have fallen in service to all of us. They stand guard in the heavens. Honor them on earth.


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