Rating: G
Warnings: Kleenex may be needed
Notes: This is for the July 4th challenge.
Summary: Josiah visits the traveling Vietnam Wall.
Disclaimer: I wish. I don’t. They do. Bank account still empty. Nuff said, on to the fic.


His Team

by Steelknight

Josiah Sanchez took a deep breath, gathered up the items he’d brought with him and placed them in a bag. Then he got out of his car taking the bag with him. His emotions were warring between joy and dread. He hadn’t known it was here ‘til he caught a spot about it on the late night news. It was the morning of July 4th and the traveling Vietnam Wall was in Denver. Tonight was its last night here.

Josiah mentally braced himself. He looked across the field it was set up on. In the background, the fireworks of some early celebrators lit the sky. The sheer size of it and knowing what it contained was both awe inspiring and tragic. So many names, most of them belonging to young men, too young to die. Yet they did, leaving family and friends with nothing more than bittersweet memories and The Wall.

A man came up to Josiah, he introduced himself and asked if he could help. They spent a few minutes talking, then Josiah followed the man into a tent. Inside was a computer that carried a list of every name on The Wall.

The man offered him some blank white paper which he smiled at but didn’t accept. He didn’t need to sketch their names, he carried them in his heart. After thanking the man for his help, Josiah walked over to the end of the wall furthest away from that area not sure if he would be able to continue on after he reached it.

There were hundreds of names on each section. Gifts and remembrances had been placed at the foot of, and between, the segments, much like the tokens he had brought with him. Slowly, ever so slowly, he read the names before him. Some of them familiar, some complete strangers.

It took the better part of an hour to reach the part that held their names. Josiah’s eyes filled, he hadn’t thought he had any tears left, that he had shed them all long ago. His hand went up and his fingers slowly and reverently traced their names. Each name triggering a cascade of memories. The good ones bringing a smile, the final ones...heartbreak.

Josiah made no attempt to halt the tears streaming down his face. This was his team and although not all their names were there, a mental roll call supplied those missing. It was so easy to lose himself in the past. He could see them, hear their voices as though they were right beside him now.

He forced his fingers away from the wall and opened the bag. Reaching into it, he withdrew a patch. On the patch was the picture of an eagle, one side of its white face had red and blue stripes. Below the eagle were two words...War paint. Josiah carefully placed the patch between the segments of wall as close as possible to the names.

Reaching into the bag again he took out an faded black and white picture. His hand caressed the faces and then the names on the wall. He fitted the picture beneath the patch and reached again into the bag. This time he removed a vase filled with six deep blue synthetic roses. Josiah knelt down and stood the vase with its roses at the base of the column.

Josiah put the bag down next to the vase. He then took out the last of the things he’d brought, seven shot glasses and a bottle of whiskey. Placing three of the glasses on each side of the vase, he filled them. Then he filled the last glass and clicked it against each of the others. Josiah stood and raised his glass, his free hand once again reaching out and touching the names engraved before him. He saluted his team, his voice hoarse with emotions, as he recited Tanner’s poem.

What makes a Hero
Intelligence, Honor and Courage Rare,
Compassion, Loyalty, A Heart that Dares.

“You, my friends, dared... you were, and still are, heroes.” After he toasted them Josiah put his empty glass in front of the vase, uniting it with the other six glasses. Standing back he gazed once more at the names, his mind filling in the missing ones. Then he closed his eyes and prayed their indomitable spirits were given eternal peace.

Josiah sighed. It was time for him to go, tomorrow he started a new job with an ATF team. He had no false illusions that he would ever be as close to this new team as he had been to his old one. He picked up the empty bag and turned to leave, then stopped.

He raised his face skyward and spoke softly “I tried to keep my promise to you, boys. I watched over them for you as best I could, ‘til I lost track of them, I’m so sorry I let you down. Fate can be cruel.” Josiah said with a frown.

Josiah trailed his fingers one last time over the names, reading them aloud. He added the names of his other team members who were missing from the wall, but no longer alive. Josiah never looked back walked slowly to his car.

If he had, he might have seen a group of six men standing together watching him leave. One of the men spoke, “You did keep your promise my friend and you will continue to do so. Yes, Josiah fate can be cruel, yet it can also be kind. Wait ‘til you met your new team tomorrow.” The men were all smiling as they stepped back into the wall and vanished.

Another firework lit the sky and its hues reflected on the wall highlighting the names upon it. If anyone had been looking they would have seen the impossible. The names in one group had been added to. Where there had been three names, now there were six. The names on the wall read Vincent S. Larabee, Christopher B. Tanner, Edward P. Standish, Obediah N. Jackson, John D. Wilmington, Bucklin J. Dunne. Josiah’s first team mates, who were still watching over him and their sons.


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© Steelknight 2002