#5MinuteFiction – Veteran’s Day Edition

The prompt for #5MinuteFiction this week was

In honor of Veterans everywhere, today’s prompt:

Your character reflects on the fallen warriors of past. 

This was my entry.

Grampa didn’t speak about the war often. He called it, “The war to end all wars,” like most from his generation did. Then he would correct himself and say, “The first war to end all wars.” That was about the extent to what he would speak. Today, though, as people started talking about history of Veteran’s Day he started tearing up. He had never done that before.

I went over to talk to him; to comfort him. It was there he told a story that I had never heard before. He had won a bronze star for his actions in battle. His lifelong friend, John, who had grown up with him had also. They had faced artillery fire and swarms of men coming over the trenches. They had survived. They had climbed out of the trenches and swarmed the enemy. They had survived.

Then news came of an armistice. The fighting would be over. The time was set: 11:00 AM on November 11th, or, as he put it, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For a few days, battle intensity increased as each army fought to gain a wider swath of land to claim at the time of the armistice. Then, the fighting slowly ebbed. Ten yards of land didn’t seem so important anymore.

As the eleventh day came, fighting had ground to a halt. No one wanted to risk death fighting for that last bit of land. Slowly, the clock ticked on. Soon, as the time drew near, those who would soon be former enemies started calling out across the lines. They made plans to meet in what was then “no man’s land” and celebrate the end of fighting. They wouldn’t start early, though – no telling what the enemy would do. “We didn’t trust them and they didn’t trust us,” is the way gramps put it.

The countdown in seconds had begun. The joy was spreading through the ranks as the time for peace was near. Someone decided to remind gramps and the men that the war wasn’t quite over yet and an artillery shell headed their way. They dove for cover.

Gramps looked at me, tears streaming down his face and said, “John died at 10:59. He may have been the last man to die in that useless war. I never have celebrated Veterans’ Day until today. It was just too painful to remember John as a brave man who gave his life meaninglessly in the last minute of the war.”

Gramps wiped away the tears, stood up straight and saluted the memorial. He then walked away, headed home to friends and family.

I don’t know if my story scared everyone else away, but no one else participated this week. A win by default is sort of bittersweet. But, I still think I did a good job with this story. So…set your clocks for Tuesday at 6:30. Join in the #5MinuteFiction fun at The Writing Network.