By Audrey W.
Dixie watched as Roy DeSoto approached the base station. The paramedic appeared lost in thought as he nearly walked into a nurse carrying supplies to a room across the corridor.
“Penny for your thoughts,” the head nurse said when Roy leaned against her desk to wait for his partner.
“Huh? I’m sorry, Dix, did you say something?”
“Boy, you really are preoccupied. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing really. I was just thinking.”
“About . . .?”
Roy studied Dixie’s face a moment before answering. “You were in the service during the Korean War. . .”
“Yes, I was.”
“Do you ever think about the people you knew then? I mean, do you ever wonder if they’re still alive?”
“Well, some I knew never made it out of Korea,” Dixie said, a sadness to her voice. “But the ones I’m not sure of . . .the ones that were still there when I left. . . I’d like to think they made it home and are doing okay now.”
“I lost some good friends in Nam. After a while, I was wishing there wasn’t time to get to know anyone beyond a last name.” Roy sighed. “That was the best way to survive over there, ya know? Getting to know a guy’s name made him too familiar. It was harder to face when he was killed.”
The nurse nodded solemnly. She knew the horrors of war all too well. Most of the men she met came to her with missing limbs, open and bloodied wounds, some on death’s doorstep. Working in a make-shift hospital, Dixie saw the realities of the Korean War all too often. Sensing the paramedic needed to talk more, she walked around from the desk and gently placed a hand on Roy’s left shoulder. “C’mon. Let’s go get a cup of coffee. “
Roy walked alongside his friend as they made their way to the doctors’ lounge. Dixie was relieved to see it was empty when they stepped inside. Neither sat down, nor drank the coffee from the cups now in their hands.
“There was this one guy we all called Smitty,” Roy said, starting up the conversation again. “There wasn’t a person who didn’t like the guy. But one day he stepped on a booby trap that was set and he got impaled on bamboo sticks. He died right there in front of us.” With the cup in one hand, Roy swiped at tears forming in his eyes with the back of his other hand. “That was about all we could take by then. The next day we agreed to call each other ‘Smitty’. It kept his memory alive and made it easier not to have individuals in the group. When one ‘Smitty’ was killed, we still had the rest of us.”
Dixie set down her cup on the counter and sighed. “Memorial Day brings up a lot of memories, doesn’t it.”
“Yeah. I mean, I’m glad we have it. The guys that are gone deserve to be remembered. But it gets tougher this time of year. Chet seems to do okay,” he added. “But he was never actually in Nam. I just hope people appreciate the sacrifice the ‘Smitties’ of the world made.”
The head nurse glanced at the TV screen in the lounge, where a Memorial Day parade was being broadcast. People who lined the streets where the floats and bands were going by were waving small American flags in the air, and some were waving their hands at the individuals in the parade. “I think they do, Roy. For the most part, I think they do.”
This is dedicated to the many men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice, and to all those who have served their country.
Thanks for the beta read Jill H. and Kenda