Paying Respect


By Debra Hanley

We arrived before the hearse. Heads turned as the deafening sound of twenty motorcycles rolled through the cemetery.  Dressed in jeans and t-shirts layered beneath our vests, many were decorated with military insignia.  We parked with precision dismounted, and gathered our flags. Solemnly we took up positions along the perimeter of the ceremony site. One single line each person an arm’s length away from the next. On command, we unfurled our Stars and Stripes, raised the poles to our waists as the breeze proudly displayed our respect for a soldier we never met.

We stood silent. The midday sun seared us, drenched us in sweat. The hearse crawled to a halt near the gravesite.  We came to attention, hoisted our flags high and straight to “Present Arms.” Six soldiers bearing the weight of the honored against their bodies marched to the open grave. Our flags snapped in the wind; the riderless horse whinnied.

Journey completed, two of the six pallbearers remained at the ends of the flag-draped coffin. The rest stepped one pace back. Stark white gloves firmly grasped the corners of the flag and folded it with precision. Once a protector for this soldier’s journey home, the flag now bestowed humble gratitude to the grieving widow and her six-year-old son. We silently mourned as the explosion of the three shot volley pierced our souls, followed by the somber playing of Taps.

The young son placed a wrinkled hand drawn picture on the descending casket then turned to hug his mother tightly. She lifted glistening eyes to us. She nodded; we understood.

On command, we disbanded, quietly securing our flags once more.  Walking to our bikes, the red-eyed boy ran over stopping before us silently waiting for his mother to arrive.  She said her son had something to share.  We patiently waited for his whispered words.

“Thank you for…”-his eyes dropped timidly to his shiny black shoes-“for loving my daddy.”

“It is our honor,” one replied for all.

Category: Fiction, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student