Last Full Measure

The grounds of the Colorado Springs Central Cemetery were silent except for the occasional gust of wind that swept through the trees lining the car filled main road. The early Thursday morning and the overcast day meant that almost no one was visiting the cemetery, which had no doubt been General Hammond's intention. The only visible human presence was the large, though quiet, group of four hundred SGC employees that stood in a semi-circle around two open graves. Standing between the two grave sights was the General himself, dress blues crisp and clean, medals reflecting what little light made it through the clouds. The large crowd stared at Hammond, waiting for him to begin speaking, something he seemed to be having a great deal of difficulty with, his eyes shifting from the coffins in front of him, to his people around him, to the sky above.

Sam, who stood with the rest of SG-1 at the front of crowd before the General, allowed her eyes to move as well. Her glance drifted not to the scene around her, but rather to the three men on either side of her. The tears that were coursing down her face were not unique, she saw as her gaze settled for a moment on Daniel, his black suit a distinct contrast from his usual BDUs, beside her. His eyes were closed, perhaps remembering another time long ago when he had stood at a double funeral, and tears poured from beneath his eye-lids, painting double streams down his face.

Looking to her other side, her focus shifted to Jack, his dress blues just as crisp and proper as Hammond and with almost as many medals and awards decorating them. He had put his sunglasses on, she saw, despite the dim grey light that surrounded him. His features were set in a deep frown and while his face was dry, she knew that his heart was at least as sick with sadness as hers was, if not more so for he'd known the two men significantly better. His hand had found hers very early in the proceedings and every few minutes, at intervals that meant something only to him and his thoughts, he would squeeze her fingers tightly between his. Sam wasn't sure whether the gesture was meant to comfort her or him, but she squeezed back each time just as he was starting to let up on the pressure, assuring him silently that she was still there.

Next to him stood Teal'c, his eyes similarly closed. He was wearing an all black outfit that Sam had never before seen him in and his face was a mask of concentration. Upon the team's arrival at the cemetery, at what would become the graves of two good men, the Jaffa had taken on a stance of intense meditation. His posture was stiff and upright and appeared to be very uncomfortable. Daniel had explained that it was part of the Jaffa death ritual: Teal'c was providing his momentary suffering to the men who had given their lives.

Hearing Hammond clear his throat and finally begin to speak, she turned her attention back to him.

"President Abraham Lincoln called death in service to one's country 'the last full measure of devotion' to that country; a price to be paid for our freedom, our families, and our way of life. Lieutenant Adrian Strikes and Lieutenant Mitchell Williams were, and still are, resounding examples of our devotion, our responsibilties and the price we are willing to pay. I had the extreme pleasure of being the Commanding Officer of these two outstanding men, but more then that I had the distinct pleasure of calling them friends. At every turn they demonstrated an absolute dedication to this program, to their country and to all of us as their friends and collegues and they will be most definitely missed. They have, through their bravery and sacrifice, secured a safer and more stable life for all of us and all of us owe them something in return: a measure of devotion. Not to our country or the service, but to them. We owe them the promise that we will continue to work hard to protect that which they fell defending and to remember their sacrifice if the time comes for us to make ours."

Several people in the crowd continued to look on expectantly, but Sam knew better. The General had said what needed to be said and as he stepped back to join the rest of the crowd, people's gazes shifted to the coffins that were being lowered into the ground. Her tears had halted during Hammond's speech, but they returned again full force as images of Strikes and Williams floated through her mind. She hadn't know either man well, but, as with everyone else in the SGC community, she had always felt a distinct affection and comraderie for them both. Jack's hand squeezed hers once more as the coffins descent ended and she felt his hand pull away.

The sound of gunfire resounded through the air and, as though a single mind controlled them, the soldiers of the SGC simultaneously raised hands in final salute to the two officers. As the last shot was fired into the air and the final wavering notes of taps sounded around them, their hands lowered once again to their sides. Teal'c's eyes had opened once again and Daniel had wiped his face clear of tears. Slowly the many minds, bodies and souls of the SGC turned away from the graves and returned slowly to their vehicles. They would spend the rest of the day, Sam was sure, in rather somber moods, but she was equally sure that every one of them would return to the mountain on the next day filled with a greater confidence and surer conviction for the job that lay before them.

And for a brief moment Major Samantha Carter, USAF wondered if the two men's 'last measure of devotion' had been, not to their country, but to those around them whose lives they would continue to inspire even in death.

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The soldiers of the United States Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard watch over us. They defend our freedom and secure for us the ability to continue our lives, sometimes at the cost of their own. We could not wish nor hope nor dream for more then that which they willingly risk each and every day and we owe them something in return: our thanks and support.

This story is dedicated to them, the defenders of our children, our friends, and ourselves. May God, providence, fate or sheer luck keep them safe and watch over them through this life and into death.