Submitted by: Cherie Eriksen
The loud click of the two honor guard soldiers’ heels against the old wooden floor sound odd in the quiet and peaceful church. It seems strange how perfectly their steps match, how the sound is completely in synch. White gloves glide smoothly with each step taken, so perfectly effortless. No other sounds ascend, even as a hundred others stand around and dab at their eyes, the same eyes glued to the young solders gliding toward the flagged coffin. Pictures of the Jesus child, the feast with the twelve, and other colorful scenes seem to all take on a sad hue. The rigid pews are uniform, an old organ solid with dust, flowers all so perfectly arranged. The young solders halt affront the flag laden coffin and turn on their heels away from each other, all the while keeping the same steps in synch of each other’s. Across the room a baby’s whine, a sniffle, and a catch of breath seem unfit for the perfection of sound that rises from the heels of the soldiers.
The flag is folded with stiff and swift motions accompanied by one soldiers marched step, with each click against the wooden floor shortening the length of the flag. No eyes are wandering as I look upon the faces of mourners, all eyes fixed on the soldier saluting the folded flag held over his partner’s heart. An older, higher ranked man squares his shoulders as the two soldiers step again in synch toward him. The folded flag is placed in his hands; the two salute the flag in one matched motion. The older man’s steps are more comforting, unperfected, and quiet. Around me more sniffle, someone discreetly sobs. The gentleman is on one knee now, facing the widow with the folded flag in his hands. His voice low, almost soundless and yet peaceful he presents the flag on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Air Force as a token of appreciation for her loved one’s honorable and faithful service. Unperfected tears meet his eyes, a perfect sound in a solemn place.
Cherie Eriksen is a 22 year old college student. Married for 3 years, she is graduating this May with a degree in Business Science. Cherie is the daughter and also a granddaughter of Veteran U.S. Navy SeaBees. Cherie wrote this short story based upon her Uncle's passing in early February.