A story from a Memorial
Denny Meyer, Gay Military Signal
man had been through a lot since he’d left home. It
seemed like it had been a long time ago; but it was just
two and a half years. It was over now, he was on the
way home; that was what mattered; he had to keep
reminding himself. On the transport ship, sometimes,
often, some of the other fellows would wake up
screaming. He understood, he’d been there with them.
He’d knock his knuckles on the metal bunk bottom and
mutter, “hey, its ok, we’re on the way home; it’s over,
go back to sleep.” For some, it was hard to remember
that in the dark in the middle of the night.
ship arrived; there were bands and do-gooders greeting
everyone, and hordes of relatives. He hadn’t announced
his return in advance. They knew he’d be coming home by
and by, because he hadn’t already arrived in a box. So,
trying to smile at all those greeters who meant well, he
hustled past and through all of that and found out what
bus to take to the train station. There was a long wait
for the next train to where he was going. It didn’t
matter, not at all; with all the hustle and bustle,
there were no mortars roaring in, and no rooftops and
doorways to watch. That’s all that mattered, really. He
was still wearing his uniform. Once in a while
someone would come over, a total stranger, and thank
him. He found it kind of weird, but he’d nod and even
accept food and drink if they offered it. It didn’t
matter, he had to eat, and he was used to eating
whatever was handed to him, for such a long time.
On the train,
he slept for something like 17 hours; it was soothing,
the clitter clatter and squeak. Finally, a conductor
who took it upon himself to make sure no solider missed
his stop, woke him up, gently. “Almost home, soldier!,
thank you!” Outside the window, in the noonday sun, he
saw the city. Well, he was getting closer; but this
city wasn’t really home. There was another long bus
ride, far out into the rural countryside, past the
suburbs, past the paved roads, to where he could
actually smell the wheat and manure. At last, that was
familiar. Almost there, almost dusk. With
loud diesel down gearing and hissing hydraulics, the bus stopped
out in the middle of nowhere, where two county roads
crossed. He got out and got his duffle; the bus
geared up and roared off until there was silence.
He stood there, alone, breathing in the farm country
air. It wasn’t the middle of nowhere to him.
He could have
called from the city of course. But he didn’t want any
fuss, even though there would be. So, he walked the
eight miles down the county road. What was eight miles
in the peace and quiet of wheat rustling in the early
evening breeze. He’d walked so far, so very far.
The dog saw
him first, or sniffed him on the wind. The dog went
crazy, barking and running straight at him, knocking him
over and licking him all over his face and hands.
Home. Then, his little brother saw him; not so little
any more, wow. He easily took his giant duffle, honored
to carry it the last steps home. His sister started
screaming. And at last, in the door, stood mom, calm
but bursting with pride. She went inside to start
cooking meatloaf even before he got to the door. That’s
what he wanted most, she knew. His father stood on the
porch filling his pipe, looking him in the eyes. He
knew, he could see it right away. But, he waited.
First there had to be the big fuss, no way around it.
His mom had to hug him; his sister had to hug him. His
brother just looked at him in awe. The dog had to be
could hardly hold it a moment longer, and croaked,
John,” his dad said and led him into his little private
farm office room and shut the door. And at long last,
the soldier burst into tears, he couldn’t stop. His
dad, a veteran of the big war, held him, patted him, and
said, “I know, I know, I was there.”
“P Paw,” he
croaked, “I killed people, I had to k….” He couldn’t
finish, crying again.
“I know son,
I know.” He knew what the boy had seen. He knew why
the boy had stayed on over there for the cleanup. He
hadn’t wanted to be home for the funeral parades. He’d
held those local boys, whom he grew up with, as they
his dad, “I bought this bottle of scotch the day you
were born, sit down son...”.
helped, it was good, really good. It was the first
drink he’d ever had in his life, as it should be, with
his dad after coming home from war.
have a girl waiting for you do you?”
dad said, “its better that way. You’re different when
you come back, it doesn’t always work out, you know.
You’ll meet someone, you’re a hero.”
“I know that too son, I know that too. You’re the
bravest man I know son, I’m proud of you, really proud
of you. And when you marry or meet someone, I’ll be
standing right next to you, John, proud as can be, proud
as can be.” And after a pause, “I may not kiss the br…uh
started laughing and laughing.
And his dad
hugged him again. The tears flowed again, different
And the aroma of mom’s meatloaf began to fill the house.
Home, really home!
Denny Meyer, Gay Military Signal