A cold wind blew as Calvin wrapped his coat tightly about himself. Every year it seemed the weather was the same – grey skies, brisk wind bringing with it the smell of incoming snow, and temperatures hovering in the 20’s. November 31st was a day that would forever remain a constant for Calvin. It was not a sense of duty that drove him to take this yearly pilgrimage – it was a sense of profound gratefulness and love.
Calvin had spent the morning driving two hours from his home in Delaware to Washington’s Arlington Cemetery. He had parked his car in the spot that seemed to be his on this date every year. The temperatures were too cold this time of year to draw many tourists.
He had locked his car and automatically walked briskly past row after row of white headstones -- each one bearing a name, two dates, and an untold story that few could comprehend. Calvin paced down through the aisles to row 14. Turning briskly to the right and without even needing to count, he passed by 12 headstones before coming to stand before the one he was looking for.
“Raymond S. Shore 1948 – 1973 Beloved Son and Brother” Calvin knelt down on the cold earth as he once again read the words on the stone. A life cut so short by the horrors of war. His mind raced back to that moment – the moment he would never forget.
His platoon had been excited the morning of August 14th, 1973. They knew that talks were in the works and that the war would soon be over. At the mess hall that morning, reports came in of the enemy approaching their camp. A plan was quickly formulated, and the men prepared to carry it out. Calvin, Raymond, and two other fellow officers had stood in a circle, put their hands together, and said their familiar chant, “For our country! For the U.S.A.!” With a “Hoo Rah!” they broke and went to their assigned tasks. Raymond was with Calvin as they sat in the foxhole waiting the arrival of the enemy.
Suddenly gunfire filled the air. The enemy was approaching quickly! Calvin and Raymond took their shots and held the line back but they were up against more than previously reported. Calvin looked worriedly at Raymond as they yelled back and forth to each other. A plan was made for Calvin to take up position a few yards away and hit the enemy from a different angle. Raymond nodded that he was ready to cover while Calvin scrambled out of the hole and lunged towards his next safe hold.
CRACK! The sound of gunfire exploded through the air at the same time that Calvin felt a searing pain in his right leg. He crumpled to the ground in agony only a few yards away from the foxhole.
Calvin cringed at the memory and wiped a tear from his eye. His entire life changed forever in those few minutes. Raymond, seeing his comrade down, did what few others would do – he came up out of the shelter of the foxhole, grabbed Calvin’s ankles, and started pulling him back to safety. Gunfire resounded through the air over and over again. Both sides were battling ferociously, but undeterred Raymond kept pulling. After what seemed like hours, both men crumpled into the foxhole in one big heap. Calvin rolled off from Raymond and turned to the now still form of his friend. He immediately realized that Ray had been shot while saving him and had pulled him to safety with the last bit of life that was in him.
“Ray!! Ray!! No! God…no!” Calvin’s screams were lost among the sounds of war overhead as the American troops finally gained the advantage and the enemy began to retreat. Calvin clung to Raymond’s lifeless body in shock over his loss and what his comrade had given for him.
“Ray…Ray…Why? Why did you do it?” Calvin asked again as he did every year. “Why am I here and you are not?”
In the distance, Calvin heard a bag piper playing a familiar tune. The melody of “God Bless the U.S.A.” rang out over the cemetery pronouncing the sacrifice those who were buried there had ultimately given.
Calvin P. Shore slowly walked back to his car. He would come again next year and relive it all again. He would never ever forget the sacrifice of his fellow soldier…his brother!
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