A Steele Star for One of Uncle Sam's Boys

(c) 1999 by Conner MacBride

DISCLAIMER:  All parties own the respective characters.  Author owns ideas. 

November 11, 1982...

        Laura stood there in the frigid cold, staring without seeing.  It wouldn't be long 
now.  A few more minutes at the most.  She folded her arms around herself, trying to keep 
in some body heat.  Her body was definitely made for the California sun.
        It was a huge spectacle; throngs of people everywhere, stretching like a swarm of 
bees over some unsuspecting flower.  Her dark eyes followed the Secret Service agents as 
they led President Reagan to the platform.
        "Not used to this weather huh?"
        "What?"  Laura turned her head slightly.  An overweight blond in a gaudy red fur 
coat nudged her slightly. Her double chin was jiggling as she chuckled.  She reminded Laura 
of a giant red cow.  
        "I said you ain't used to this weather, huh honey?"  Her Texan drawl grated on 
Laura's nerves like nails on a chalkboard.  
        "Nope.  I'm from out west.  California."  God, go away.
        "Texas.  Arlington."
        "I guessed that."  /Can't you take a hint!  How much of that perfume did you bathe 
in this morning?/
        The woman stomped her feet in an attempt to get warm, only adding to Laura's image 
of an annoyed bovine.  "I wish they'd hurry it up!  It's cold as hell and I want to see it. 
Seems like I've been waiting forever."  
        /And I haven't?/  "They're probably waiting for all of the news crews to get here."
        "Where the hell were the news crews ten years ago?"  Texas' voice dropped a bitter 
truth serum.  
        /The same place everyone else was...on their pedestals of self-righteousness and 
dignity instead of wallowing in filth./
        The stamping red cow disappeared.  Laura saw a middle-aged woman in tasteless 
clothes and too much makeup with her chubby hand fisted around a fading black-and-white 
photo and wilting carnations, holding on to old memories and dying flowers as if those 
stupid objects were her last link to sanity, holding on to the only things she had left of 
a loved one.  Her beautiful eyes spoke of the absolution the dead couldn't give.  
        "Who are you here for?"  /Why am I talking to you?/
        Texas smiled like the Cowboys had just taken home the Superbowl.  
"My husband.  See?"  She opened her hand to show Laura the photo.  A nice-looking guy 
standing in his uniform stared blankly at the camera, eyes filled with the uncertainty of 
the unknown.  
        /Did he know?  Would you tell me if I asked?  I hope you don't think I'm too nosy!/
  	"He looks young."      
        "He was thirty.  Two years and he didn't come back."  Another dose of painful tears 
and truth.
        "My dad did."  She laughed, causing a slight smile from those wet eyes.  
"Bunch of kids saw him in his uniform.  Dad said they spit on him."
        Somewhere she heard the national anthem.

                                Oh, say can you see?
                                By the dawn's early light
                                What so proudly we hailed
                                At the twilight's last gleaming...

        President Reagan stood on the podium, speaking of bravery and sacrifices and honor 
long overdue.  Laura barely heard him.
        "Army, Navy, what?" 
        "Marines.  Your dad?"
        "Army.  Captain."
        "At least he came back."
        /Yeah, right.  Came back half a man./  
	"For a while anyway.  Look, they're letting us in."  
        "Lordy hon, I didn't mean to make you miss the whole ceremony."
        "No problem.  I hope you find his name."  I hope you find him.
        "You too, honey."
        E, F, G, H,Hif, Hig, Hol.  Where the hell is Hol?
        Laura walked along the marble wall.  A man stood back from the wall, saluting at 
unknown faces, standing proud, standing tall as tears fell unheeded down his face.  
Somewhere, she heard a chorus of voices weeping, singing eternal funeral hymns for the 
Johnnies who hadn't coming marching home this time.  
        Hol...she walked up, flinching, expecting to be burned as her gloved hand touched 
the smooth grooves of the carved names.  Holt.  John Lee Holt.  Soldier. Husband.  Father.
Sacrificial lamb and fallen martyr.  
        Her face was stinging with cold.  You were lost the minute you left.  You never 
came home.  Tracing the name with her finger, Laura bowed her head, shuddering, weeping 
for shattered illusions of truth and duty, courage and honor.  She wept for the boys who 
left as babies and came home old before their time, for the husbands, brothers, fathers, 
and sons who came home in pine boxes.  Mostly she wept for herself, the daughter of one of 
the lost sheep who had walked through hell and hadn't found redemption, who threw himself 
in a bottle of alcoholic stench to forget blood and dirt and death of soul.
                                Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
                                That saved a wretch like me...
                                I once was lost, but now am found
                                Was blind but now I see...     

        Someone was holding her, singing a sweet hymn of redemption and hope, rocking her 
like he would have rocked his own child who had been left all alone to die somewhere in 
that jungle of Vietnam.  The Wall stood up against the naked November sky, cold and 
beautiful, gleaming as a monument to the crucified.  It loomed over her, an awesome 
spectacle, a Weeping Wall, whose mourners touched and tasted vindication of their loved 
ones' memories and of an angry past laid to rest.

                        We're gonna ride forever
                        You can't keep horsemen in a cage
                        Should the angels call
                        Well it's only then we might pull in the reins...
                                -Paul Gross, "Ride Forever"

Dedicated to those who fell in Vietnam and those who managed to come home.
Forgive us for abandoning you when you returned.  

The Vietnam Memorial

Email: gypsy@acadiacom.net