for Stephanie and other dear ones here...
Chosin Reservoir, South Hamgyong Province, North Korea, December 2, 1950….
The blare of the horns visited them in the dead of night once again. Sounds meant to invoke terror, but the men in the foxholes had steeled themselves to the horror they faced almost hour by hour, even if the sounds would have set anyone else to frightened cowering. The boy hunkered further down in the hole, trying to keep from being a target like his buddies.
Between the long row of trees and their foxholes lay unattended bodies; left alone, covered by new snow while the peril still threatened each of the survivors. Help was due, and would come, they knew. The timing was the only hitch in their hope, since it still felt like help would not come in time. There had been an almost soothing predictability to the noise, however. So long as the horns blared, it seemed, it would be safe. When they ceased, the inevitable onslaught of the Chinese would come down on them with a vengeance. The boy tucked his head tight against his chest and prayed.
“Now I lay me down to sleep….”
Visions of being home and safe only a few years before filled his head as the blare of the horns seemed to fade at the gentle intrusion of the Andrew Sisters. He smiled as his vision was filled with a scene long held dear but desperately held secret. A tall woman was in the middle of the living room, dancing with her teenage daughter. The prom was just about a week away and she wanted her girl to be ready, even though no knock would ever come at the door with flowers and candy. It was a quickstep version of the same dance they did for just a few years after the head of the family lost his life on a beach in Sicily.
“I’d vote for you if I could,’ the mother said to daughter. Prom Queen would have been a great honor and a delight for both, but in 1947, it wasn’t something to hope for...ever. The girl nodded and smiled. Going to the prom would have been wonderful, but there, at that moment in her home, just being herself was a joy, even if that joy never left their living room.
“Maybe someday, honey.” Her mother held back tears. Loving, protecting, motherly tears that shed nearly every night for her child. She kissed the girl on the forehead and stepped over to the phonograph. In a moment, In the Mood wafted through the room as she resumed the dance with her daughter……
The music abruptly stopped; both in the daydream and in the cold real dirt and mud of the hillside that night, only to be followed by the loud crack of wood and steel hitting flesh and bone. The sound was quickly replaced by loud shouts and gunfire and screams in another tongue; unmistakable if unknown as a retreat signaled the departure of the Chinese soldiers.
“Jacobsen? Hey? Joey? I made it,’ the voice called from the foxhole only yards away. The young man was lifted to his feet from the grime and mud by one of the men responsible for his deliverance. He rushed over to the other foxhole in excited glee only to find his best buddy lying face up with sightless eyes. He knelt down, but there wasn’t any urgency in his gesture as he cradled the boy in his arms.
“Gee, sorry, kid,” the older man said as he put his hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“That’s….it’s okay, Sarge. I….” The tears began to spill; mostly from grief, but a great deal from relieved peace as he kissed his best friend’s forehead.
“I think he’s okay.”
“I’m sure he is, kid.” The man said, squeezing the young man’s shoulder once again even as his own tears spilled onto the cold ground. He looked down at the boy in the young man’s arms and it looked as if he was sleeping peacefully; a smile just barely noticeable beneath a smear of blood and dirt.
“I’m sure he is…..”
In celebration of Armistice/Remembrace Day/Veterans Day, November 11, 2014. For those who have served. In gratefulness for the sacrifice each has made and continue to make. And for those who have served and continue to serve in anonymity; in the open and hidden at the same time. Thank you!
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