“Elizabeth, we need tomorrow off.”
John watched as Elizabeth looked up at him in surprise. It wasn’t often that he asked for a day off and so he could understand her being startled. She would be even more startled when she found out that he meant the whole of Atlantis’s military establishment.
“We? What we are you talking about John? You and Rodney?” she asked. Her eyes were flicking from her computer screen to the tablet she had been working on, obviously trying to determine what had sparked this request.
John shook his head at that question. “No. We as in your military. All of my men are back aboard Atlantis and we just need tomorrow off.”
“Uhm… May I ask why?” John had to give her points for trying, because Elizabeth hadn’t given up on looking for answers. Even if she was a bit off balance thanks to his approach.
“Tomorrow is Veterans Day, Elizabeth. And we, the military arm of the Expedition, would like to hold a bit of ceremony to commemorate it,” John said quietly.
For a brief moment, Elizabeth seemed startled and in an obvious move, checked the date on her computer. Seeing that it was, nominally, the tenth of November she nodded. “I can agree with that John. Do you want us there?”
John shook his head and murmured, “No, not this time. We need to do this on our own.”
Elizabeth was silent for a moment or two and John stayed still. While the Expedition was no longer part of Earth, this observance was something important to his boys and girls and he didn’t want to do anything to mess it up. When Elizabeth nodded her acquiescence to his request, all he could do was say thank you as he left. There were things he had to ready before tomorrow morning.
There were rows and rows of boots and guns supporting dog tags. The boots varied in size, color and wear patterns but every single one was special in some way, to someone. Every year, the display got larger, and the men and women who were part of the Atlantis military command were far too used to the growth for them to twitch at that grim fact.
The living members of the military arm of the Expedition were in their own rows, all shiny in dress uniforms from nations all over Earth. This would be the last time they observed this ’holiday’ in their Earth-based uniforms. There were new ones being made now, and they would honor their dead in the next year with a united display of pageantry.
Speeches, short as they were, were given with all the heartfelt emotion that men and women on the front lines of a war they hadn’t started, but knew that they would finish could give. At the end, after every name was said, after every moment of heartache was felt, ‘Taps’ played from the lone bugler to come to Atlantis. There was no sound to be heard from ranks while he played.
Voice thick with emotions that would never be let free, Lt. Colonel John Sheppard called his men and women to attention, and with a crisp salute to the fallen, dismissed everyone.
Another year ended. His prayers for no deaths went forth as they did every year, and he knew that they would be in vain. War was a beast that was always hungry and his soldiers were its food. God help them all.
This got a brief edit by Keira Marcos. Thank you for that.
This is dedicated to each and every member of the military, worldwide, who has lost their life to the War On Terror. It has been going on far longer than many of us knew and will continue for many years yet. This is also for all of those left behind. We will miss you, mourn you and salute you. Godspeed.