By San Antonio Rose
Ronon hadn't quite worked out Earth time relative to Lantean time or how either related to Satedan time, so celebrations tended to catch him off guard. What got especially confusing were the groups who celebrated the same holiday on different days or different holidays on the same day. Independence Day he thought he understood, though nobody could quite explain why the Mexicans had three of them. Guy Fawkes' Day was funny. He didn't even try to figure out the religious observances; if he stayed long enough, some kind of pattern would emerge. The rest of it, though....
One that really surprised him, however, came after he had been there about six months. Apart from the Americans and the Asians, almost everyone showed up to breakfast one morning with a red flower pinned to their uniforms. McKay was still trying to fasten his on when he walked into the cafeteria.
"Thought you were allergic to narcotics," Lorne jibed.
"Oh, ha, ha," McKay snarked back, then brandished the flower at him. "This one's silk, anyway."
"What?" Ronon finally asked.
"It's Remembrance Day," McKay replied, finally succeeding in getting the fake flower pinned to his jacket. As Ronon continued to look at him blankly, "It's a, um... remembrance of the end of a war, honoring those who fought and those who died, so on."
"Why the flower?"
Rodney started reciting a poem that began, "In Flanders fields the poppies grow / Between the crosses, row on row," but Katie Brown interrupted, "Red poppies stand for consolation."
Rodney turned and smiled at her. She blushed and hurried off.
"It's part of the tradition for some countries," Lorne added.
"But not in America?" Ronon frowned.
"No, for us it's Veterans' Day, a chance to honor the living. Memorial Day is older; that's when we remember the fallen."
Ronon nodded thoughtfully.
"Did you have anything like that on Sateda?" McKay asked.
"Not really. Anniversaries of big battles, but that's about it. We've been too busy lately to do much in the way of celebrations."
McKay looked uncomfortable and changed the subject.
A few hours later, Ronon and Sheppard were on their way to the gym for a sparring session when Dr. Weir's voice came over citywide: "Attention all personnel. On Earth, it is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Let us have a moment of silence."
Everyone stopped. Some bowed their heads. Sheppard stood silently at attention, and Ronon did likewise.
"Thank you," Weir said when the moment was over. "And to our military personnel, veterans of wars on Earth as well as in this galaxy, I thank you for your service. Oh, one final announcement: the Daedalus will be arriving this afternoon, and Col. Caldwell has promised to bring us a surprise. That is all."
"What's this 'eleventh hour of the eleventh day' stuff?" Ronon asked Sheppard as they began walking again.
"The armistice that ended World War I took effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month," Sheppard replied.
"I dunno. Maybe some diplomat wanted to be a poet."
Ronon rolled his eyes. Sheppard chuckled.
"How many world wars has Earth had, anyway?"
"Depends on who you ask. Officially, just two. Some people count the Cold War as a third and the War on Terror as the fourth. What's ironic about the first one is that it was billed as 'the war to end all wars.' Then the twentieth century went on to be the bloodiest in human history."
Sheppard shot him a sidelong glance as they walked into the gym. "Y'know, I oughta see if the library has a DVD of All Quiet on the Western Front. Granted, it's Hollywood history, but it would give you an idea of what it was like."
"Is it anything like Saving Private Ryan?"
Sheppard thought for a moment. "Yes and no. Different war, different era, black and white... but I think it inspired Saving Private Ryan."
They smiled at each other and turned their attention to their sparring.
"Special delivery!" Caldwell called as he walked into the cafeteria with a long white box in his arms.
"I bet I know what this is!" Lorne laughed, taking it from him to set on the buffet.
Curious, Ronon walked over to them as Lorne took the lid off the box. Inside was a big cake that said "Happy 230th Birthday USMC" and had the Marine logo painted on the frosting.
"It's a day late, but it's the thought that counts, right?" Caldwell grinned.
Lorne grinned back and touched his radio. "Hey, Marines! Cake's here!"
Whoops came from all over the city, followed by the pounding of feet as every Marine on the base dashed toward the cafeteria.
Caldwell touched Ronon's arm. "We'd better get out of here before we get trampled."
Ronon laughed and followed him out.
"Could use a hand unloading the mail," Caldwell added once they were out of harm's way.
They walked up to the ship on the east pier just in time to hear a young airman's cry of joy: "SOLDIERS' ANGELS!"
"Soldiers' Angels?" Ronon repeated, frowning at Caldwell as the chatter around them grew more excited.
The pilot smiled. "It's an organization dedicated to supporting the troops--care packages, letters, blankets for the wounded, support for families of the fallen. General O'Neill's been trying for several months now to find a way to let them send stuff to Atlantis; he and General Hammond finally worked it out between them, just in time for the first shipment to come on this run. I think they sent a care package for everyone on base, including civilians. We barely had room for it all."
Ronon grinned. "Excellent. We didn't have anything that organized on Sateda--everyone did their part, but it wasn't like this." He indicated the boxes with a wave of his hand. "'Course, we didn't deploy to other planets for very long at a time."
"That does make a difference," Caldwell agreed.
Ronon scooped up a large Soldiers' Angels box addressed to Dr. Beckett and carried it in to the infirmary. He and Beckett opened it together and found it full of handmade blankets, each tied with a festive ribbon and a card with a note of encouragement. Beckett reminisced happily about his mother's quilting hobby as the two of them found a space to store them all.
When that was done, Ronon headed back down to the pier and found that everything else had been brought inside already. He then made his way back to the cafeteria in hope of snagging a piece of cake. Teyla, apparently with the same goal, met him in the hall; a few moments later, Sheppard came out of the cafeteria with a box in each hand.
"Ronon! Teyla! Just the people I wanted to see!" Sheppard grinned, holding up the boxes.
"Those aren't for us, are they?" Ronon asked.
"They sent enough for everyone, including you," Sheppard confirmed.
"What is it?" Teyla asked as Sheppard handed her one box and Ronon the other.
"A care package from Earth," Sheppard replied. "Hey, I'd better get back, help Elizabeth and Caldwell distribute these."
"Save us some cake," Ronon called after him.
"Will do," Sheppard replied with a wave.
"Why would they send these for us?" Teyla asked Ronon.
Ronon shrugged. "O'Neill probably just told them how many to send. Dunno if he or Weir took the count."
Teyla looked her package over. "Well, shall we go see what the people of Earth have sent us?"
Ronon grinned at her, and they adjourned to her quarters and set about emptying their packages onto her bed. Each held a blanket, a scarf, soaps and lotions, some other odd Earth stuff that Ronon hadn't figured out yet, a bunch of snacks, and a note. Ronon was still adjusting to reading English, but this looked easy enough, so he sat down to read it:Dear Soldier, Thank you for your service. You're in my prayers, wherever you are. We appreciate all you do to keep us safe. God bless you.
He couldn't read the name. His eyes were too full of tears.
Teyla gently squeezed his shoulder.
"They said 'thank you,'" Ronon finally whispered. He looked up at Teyla and saw that she, too, was crying. "They said 'thank you'...."
Teyla nodded. "I know."
Ronon wiped his eyes. "Guess I don't need to see All Quiet on the Western Front tonight after all."
"Oh? Why not?"
"This is one Earth holiday I think I understand."
Teyla simply smiled.
A/N: Happy Veterans' Day (a bit late)! I thought it was about time our heroes in Pegasus got their share of smiles from the home front. Soldiers' Angels is a real organization; see my profile for a link.