|Rating: PG-13 (for questionable language and adult situations)
Disclaimer: The Tour of Duty Characters do NOT belong to me and I am not
being compensated in any way for this work of fiction.
Placement: Around the time of The Road to Long Binh (3rd Season)
November 13th, 1982 – The Mall, Washington, DC
She stood alone, huddled in her raincoat under the thick canopy of the trees. The crowds that had come for the dedication ceremony had finally thinned out enough that she felt she could approach the black silent expanse, could summon the courage to face its imposing visage.
During the speeches and the picture taking, when all eyes had been focused on President Reagan, she’d walked over to the thick books, waving off the offer of help from an attentive park ranger. Paging carefully through, squinting in the dim light at the tiny letters, she found the name, memorizing the panel and line number. 17W, the line about halfway down the panel.
Dusk was edging in across the Mall, lengthening the shadows in the drizzle. She walked along the bricked sidewalk, the names etched there whispering to her in distant voices, her reflection distorted beneath the shining wet surface. She found the panel - one of several for 1969 - on the west wall - where the sun would always set for him.
The rain continued to mist down and she shoved the hood of her raincoat back, unmindful, her hair darkening from the moisture. She carefully trailed her fingers down the many names, patiently seeking. A part of her hoped he wouldn't be here. Wouldn't confirm what she tried to deny herself over the years. Afraid that if she did find his name, that part of her soul she had lost back there would never be given back to her. But another part of her knew she had to see that name, touch it and make it real to her.
Had to finally let him come home to her.
She found him at last. Etched with the others, a silent row of letters spelling out his name. Her throat closed and her eyes filled when she tenderly traced long delicate fingers along the black surface. She finally stepped closer, and pressed her forehead to the slick wet stone. Let her tears mingle with the rain on its silent darkness. Time was lost to her before she could finally pull herself away.
She reluctantly lowered her hand, reaching into her jacket, and slowly pulled out the slender book. For thirteen years she had carried the book with her, always in a pocket, always close to her. The cover was still stained with Lawson's blood. And his. Closing her eyes, she kissed the leather tenderly and then set the book on the ground against the panel, below his name. Tried not to tremble as the rain spilled over it, the blood of so many years ago beginning to wash away.
He was home now. Home where he belonged. Home here with her.
Home with YOU, Caz.
Something, someone - brushed cautiously against her anguished thoughts. She found herself looking up, slowly rising as she did, her fingers subconsciously reaching out and finding the name once again.
And met with those dark eyes. Eyes that had not changed over the years, eyes that held a world of sorrow and pain and distant regrets. And memories. She swallowed, recognizing him immediately.
Myron Goldman stepped forward silently and gently reached a hand out. He placed it over hers, over the slender fingers that were still pressed to the letters. Wrapped his fingers around hers. He carefully slid his free arm around her waist and tenderly drew her, trembling, to him. She didn't resist. There was nothing left of her to resist. And Myron's strength and understanding, his sorrow and regret, all enveloped her with his unspoken compassion.
The walls finally came down. The real tears, the tears of honest grief that she refused to shed finally fell and she shook with wracking sobs within the circle of Goldman’s arms. Myron held her, tenderly stroking her hair. He whispered soft assurances to her.
How could something so simple be so heart rending? Be so real?
Unashamed, his own tears slipped down his face as he let himself read the name on the Wall, one name amid thousands - Francis T Hockenbury. There was still just enough light left in the gathering dusk that Myron could see his own features, starkly illuminated against the wet panel.
So many names. So many whose faces he could so clearly see in his mind even after all this time. So much was lost and destroyed and there would never be any retrieving it. Myron closed his eyes and pressed his cheek to the wet hair of the trembling woman still in his arms.
Over there, it had been easy for him to carry around his own grief and hold himself apart. Pretend he was the only one who had been hurt as deeply as he had been. But here, standing in the shadow of this monument, Myron realized he’d been selfish in that belief.
He tightened one arm around Caz and carefully reached out, placing his fingers on the name.
He had so many names on this wall. Names he was responsible for. Names of kids he would likely never forget. But this one, this one had seen into his soul those many years back and never held it against him. This one Myron had tried to cheat destiny with, thought he’d saved. And in the end, had been as destroyed as Hockenbury had been.
Maybe, Myron considered, still looking at his reflection on the dark surface, it was time they accepted the past and those things they could not change. Maybe, just maybe, it was time they all came home.
"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."
Major Michael O'Donnell