W

By: Anne Leigh

Pop.

Pop.

The sounds coming out of the rifles were loud, breaking the hushed, muted silence.

Men and women were dressed in their full military regalia. Some with more medals than their dress uniforms could accommodate. Others with one or two ribbons, they were the ones who were slowly moving up the ranks.

I’d met most of them at dinners or galas celebrating military traditions. My mother made sure we went and attended on his behalf, even when he was halfway around the world.

Pop.

I’d stopped counting after I heard the ninth shot.

He would have loved it. The honor that his two and a half decades’ worth of service awarded him.

Then again, there was a side of him that would have hated it. He didn’t like to create fuss, to bring so much attention to himself, that it removed him from his regular duties.

I looked at the wide expanse of greens that surrounded our group, the headstones sticking out of the earth.

At one point, they were men and women who walked the ground that was now above them.

They were sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers.

Father.





William Thomas Worthington





Lieutenant Colonel





US Marines

January 10, 1956 - May 5, 2007





Loving husband and father



Of all the honors he’d achieved, the last four words engraved on his headstone were his most prized.

I felt the weight leaning on my left shoulder start to get heavy. She had looked so composed, even kept herself together when everyone was offering their condolences.

I pressed my hand to her shoulder and hugged her tighter, the familiar scent of rosemary on her hair brought me comfort.

She’d removed the black feathered hat that covered her dark hair; her best friend, Lorrie, who was standing on her left helped her secure the pins that had gotten loose from the bun hairstyle she loved to wear.

It’d only been two weeks, but it seemed like a hundred yesterdays when I found her lying on the floor of our living room.

I’d just gotten home from a day of bumming it at the beach with Markus and Viggo. We were all looking forward to a summer filled with sand, surf, and girls. I’d just dropped off Viggo, who was too lazy to walk to his house that was three miles from La Jolla Shores. I’d planned on dropping off Markus, who lived five blocks away from me, after we got some grub at the house because my stomach was freaking rumbling. We’d come in through the back door so we wouldn’t disturb Mom who’d mentioned that she was going to be busy with musical arrangements. I was busy snatching the bread and turkey from the fridge when Markus said, “Dude, isn’t your mom working? Why’s your TV so fucking loud?” When Mom was working in her studio, the house was normally so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

Markus was right so I quickly abandoned the sandwich and yelled, “Mom! I thought you were gonna be working? Are you watching that home shopping channel again?”

No answer.

As we neared the living room, I could hear the noises coming from the TV. They weren’t of the high-pitched and overly enthusiastic variety that made women call the station within minutes after introducing a product. Markus rounded the corner first and his face, sunburnt from being a beach bum who didn’t believe in sunscreen, started to pale, “Oh shit…”

I rushed ahead of him and adrenaline started to surge through my system – a male announcer from CNN was relaying the news, “We’re just receiving the report that there has been a series of suicide bombings in Fallujah...”

The news faded in the background when I saw her tiny form on the floor, a cellphone in her right hand.

“…Three major marine embankments were damaged, several injured…it’s a mess down here.”

“Mom! Mom!” I shook her body, my lifeguard skills kicking in. I checked the pulse by her neck. She had one, it was faint but regular. She didn’t need CPR, but Markus was already calling 911.

I picked her head up off the floor and laid her on my lap, she most likely just fainted. Granted, she had never fainted before. I looked at her face, willing her eyes to open, willing her to say something... To give me hope that maybe what I was thinking wasn’t true.

More often than not, media coverage was pervasively over-the-top, so far from the truth–

But my mother never watched the news.

It was what kept her sane and functioning when Dad was gone for months at a time.

Markus kept his eyes on the TV screen as the sounds of the sirens neared our house.

I held her hands as we waited for her to gain consciousness.

Markus unlocked the door so the paramedics could get in and he explained the situation.

One of the guys wearing a black uniform with a yellow striped band on his shirt said, “I need to take her vitals.”

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