Here I sit in my wheelchair looking sadly on. It is the 11th day of the 11th month and it's the 11th hour. Rememberance Day in England.
The pall bearers lowered the coffin into the ground. A tall dark stranger laid a single black rose on the coffin which had been draped in the flag of the country in which I had suddenly found myself, America.
Soft rain began to fall from the sky as the priest said his final words – softly and with such sadness for the life that had been taken too soon. Ian "Walker" Scott had been just 27 when he went on his final mission. One that did not officially exist. I knew what that meant as I had been on one of those many years ago – a mission that had cost me my legs.
I sigh and pulled the waterproof blanket over my legs. "Are you OK, Dad?" Amy said.
"Yeah" I replied with a sigh. "How are you holding up, Pumpkin?"
"I've had better days" she said with tears at the edge of her voice.
Go on, cry dammit I thought. You need to let your feelings out – he was your youngest child and there has been too much sadness in your life. Amy's husband Derek had been American and she'd followed him across the Atlantic. Their's had been a good life until he left her for a younger model – Bastard – now she was on her own. Had never remarried but didn't feel she could return to the country of her birth. Derek stood across the grave from her looking bereft, while she looked like a little lost soul. Bastard, I thought again.
Walker was my nephew and one of the bravest men I had known in recent times. I'd always known he was destined for military life. He'd loved tales of my antics as a younger man – the day we "bombed" another squadron with their berets "stolen" from them at the previous night's mess dinner. The time I broke my collar bone playing silly games, the time we managed to rebuild my CEO's car on the roof of his house... I'd always joked about it but had been sad when he'd opted for the army as I was an RAF man through and through. Fighter planes had been my passion – I'd flown a spitfire and a B52 but mainly my time was spent in meteors – meatboxes we'd affectionately called them and finally hurricanes.
Whereas I'd belonged in the sky, Walker had, as his name suggested, belonged on the ground. He loved to play a stealth game with the enemy. Crossing their lines, interfering with their plans, mind games he'd called it.
I thought back to my first Rememberance service. It was a couple of years after my final mission – I'd never had the courage to attend before that. The average life expectancy of a pilot in WW2 was about three weeks but somehow I'd been lucky – I was a young man in my prime when war broke out. Full of the arrogance of youth – I was invincible and immortal and the world was at my feet. By the end of the conflict I was a battle weary jaded Squadron Leader with a small band of ever changing men who were even younger than myself.
The Battle of Britain had been my finest hour – I'd shot down at least three enemy aircraft and had added it to my tally of 15. I was a "hero". My war was sanitised in that I had never seen the blood that I shed or the damage I inflicted, but I did feel the heartbreak of the loss of yet another of my crew members.
Amy was saying something and it brought me back to today. "Dad, let me introduce you to Walker's Captain – Ranger". I took the hand that was offered to me and felt the warmth and power that flowed from it.
"Sorry that we meet under such sad circumstances, Sir" he said before he turned to Amy. He held both of her hands in his and looked her straight in the eye.
"Walker was one of the finest soldiers I have ever met and his passing leaves a big hole in my team – we will miss him greatly. I just wanted you to know that he will never be forgotten and the mission he was on helped to save many lives. He did not die in vain"
Amy shed a tear and Ranger gently wiped it from her cheek. "I am so sorry, Ma'am" he added sadly.
As we left the graveside, Ranger stayed back, arms crossed in front of him fingers interleaved, head down, a single muscle working at the side of his chin.
Fine man I thought to myself, hope he has found the time to love – Walker never had and I felt saddened by this fact. He'd had girlfriends, true, but not the one, not his special one.
We moved off towards our separate vehicles – each with our own private thoughts. I didn't want to think of all the lives lost through war but this day was always a hard one for me. Lest we forget, I thought. Lest we forget.