Private Mourning
by Allison Egley

It was December 7th. Robert walked solemnly out to the flag pole, attached the flag to the ropes and raised it up. He brought the flag to the top of the pole, before pausing for a second and bringing the flag back down to rest at half-staff. Normally, a staff member of the nursing home did this task, but over the years, the staff realized how special this day was to him, and let him have his one day a year to perform the ritual.

With tears glistening in his eyes, he gave a curt salute before kneeling by the flag. His head reverently bowed, Robert paid his respects to his fallen comrades. Standing once again, he looked heavenward and saluted before walking into the building.

With a heavy heart, Robert walked back to his room and pulled out his journal; a memento of his days in the service. He wept into his hands bitterly. Once a year, he let the tears flow freely. Once a year, he allowed the memories to wash over him again. Other times he tried to push them aside. It was too hard to remember.

Robert still jumped when he saw a military plane flying low, and he didn't care much for fireworks. They only reminded him of the explosions that rocked Pearl Harbor that day.

Robert remembered scrambling for cover, once he realized what was happening. He remembered the sound of the planes flying overhead, and could still read the number imprinted on the plane that flew closest to his inadequate shelter. And the screams... Oh, how he remembered the agonizing screams, followed by the silence.... the deafening silence of death and mourning.

He closed the pages of his journal, holding it close to his heart and saying a quick prayer before somberly putting it back in its place.

Later, he walked over to the window and watched as a group of children and youth walked into the building, joking and laughing. They were probably here to sing carols or play games with the residents. Did they see the flag? Did they notice it was at half-staff? Did they care? Or was this just another day for them? He hoped for their sake, that this generation's "Pearl Harbor Day," September 11th, wouldn't be forgotten by the following generations.

The day wore on, and Robert kept his private vigil. The sun began to set, and he walked out to the flag pole once again. He gave a salute, raised the flag up to full-staff and then slowly and carefully lowered the flag, as he softly sang. He knew it wasn't the usual song to sing as one took down the American flag, especially on a day such as this, but it had always been his favorite.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.

Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujah,
Glory, glory hallelujah,
His truth is marching on.

He folded the flag the best he could, saluted, and walked back inside. As he turned around, he saw the group of children and teens, along with their leaders, standing in silence with their hands on their hearts. Maybe they remembered after all.

"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Julia Ward Howe; Public Domain.

Allison Egley, 2009

Allison Joy Egley resides in St. Peters, MO.  She graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in May, 2006 with a degree in Elementary Education.  Her other writings are on the FaithWriters website.

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