I have no idea how the specific events of the day were handled, but this is my imagining of the day from what I've been able to find out. Thank you all for sticking with me, and as I'm not sure that my chapter of 'The Family You Make' will post this month (I'm 1/3 of the way thru it, but it between finishing it and getting it beta'd I may be close) this is my last chance to remind you that 'Loose Screws' is up for one of the fave completed stories of the month. Link is on my profile. Thank you to everyone who votes for it.
We say a fond farewell to MASHward and his angel, and I'm very sad to see them go. This started in the Age of Edward contest in 2010, but after a long hiatus and a period of long pauses between posts, we finally got them their HEA. No plans to write their peacetime life, mainly because this was the story of love surviving war. Thank you all for your support and I hope you check out what is coming next. Put me on alert to see what I'm finishing up and what is new from Camp AGW. As always, thank you to mizzdee, who would rush to work on this fic out of a love for our good doctor.
To the veterans of every war, thank you for your bravery and sacrifice. And to their loved ones, thank you for being strong enough to stand behind them as they gave of themselves.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue – An Honor Due
After a tiring flight across the country, Edward and Bella made their way to baggage claim so that they might have a chance to see their grandkids before they were tucked in for the night. A lot had changed in the last forty-one years, and air travel was certainly one of those things.
Washington D.C. was a zoo this particular week and it was the reason why the entire Masen family had flown in from all over the country to meet up. It had been years since they had seen some of the men and women they would be reconnecting with over the next few days, and for once, they would share it with their children.
The war wasn't something that they talked about often. Stories about the people they'd served with, and the boys they'd saved, but never anything specific. While they didn't want their sacrifice to be forgotten, some things were easier left in the past.
Dr. and Mrs. Masen had watched as the fifties gave way to the sixties, bringing them three more children after Susan, and an overwhelming sense of family. Though he had never wanted his father's money, Edward inherited a majority of the vast fortune when his father died just a few years after the end of the war. His mother was left with the house and a sum that would keep her comfortable until she passed away a decade after that.
The financial freedom had allowed Edward to keep his practice and never have to worry about money. His children each had trust funds, and the eleven grandchildren he had were all going to benefit from their grandfather's shrewd financial planning when it came time to go to college.
The hippie days gave way to another war that couldn't be won against the Red Menace, leading to the American's leaving Vietnam during the fall of Saigon and a new generation of disenfranchised veterans.
Edward and Bella had differing opinions about the portrayal of their time serving their country in the media, but while they could see some similarities, they were quick to point out that the war was far crueler than any movie could show.
The core group to come out of the 8076 still kept in touch through the years, with traveling for various weddings and special occasions keeping the Cullens, Masens, McCartys, and the Whitlocks from being people they once knew.
Others were harder to keep tabs on, but occasional letters would alert one or another of the news of Peter or Garrett, some of the nurses, and of course, Eric Yorkie. Eric had been busy working with Alice and Bella to organize a reunion luncheon for the day following the official dedication of the Korean War Memorial on the 27th, the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that brought an end to the war.
Edward was brought out of his thoughts by his youngest child, Denise, who was calling to him and Bella from the far end of the baggage area.
"Mom, Dad, how was your flight?" Denise asked as she ran over, hugging her parents and then walking them over to the carousel that was currently offloading their bags.
"Long, Sweetheart, now where are my grandbabies?" Bella asked as they started towards the car.
"Back home with Chris, Ellen, and their kids. It is going to be a very loud couple of days, but I love having the family close by," Denise explained.
"You could always move back west," Edward offered, but Denise shook her head.
"This is the only home they've known. We may move at some point, but it's too soon after losing Brian to think about uprooting them now," Denise told her parents, earning her another hug. "We have to get you to your hotel so that you're able to get some rest for tomorrow. From what the news says, it's going to be a beautiful day."
"Sounds good, Sweetheart," Bella said as they began to exit the airport.
Denise drove to her house and invited her parents in for a few minutes before letting them borrow her second car to drive back to the hotel. They'd agreed that it would be best to meet on Independence Avenue and then walk as a group to the site of the memorial.
Susan and Pamela were staying at a hotel a little further from the site with their families, so they would have a little traveling to do, but the twenty members of the Masen family were in attendance for the week.
After checking into the opulent and classy Willard Continental Washington, Dr. and Mrs. Masen went up to their room to unpack and relax.
"I can't believe we're really here," Bella said as she began to lay out her outfit for the following day.
"I know, I wasn't sure we'd live to see a memorial for what we lived through. And the chance to see everyone again…"
"I wish Carlisle could be here to see it," Bella whispered sadly.
Colonel Cullen would be the most sorely missed member of the company at their luncheon, but his health made it hard for him to travel, so Esme and he weren't able to fly for the event.
It didn't take long for Edward and Bella to get their belongings squared away and settled into bed, the late hour and the travel making it easy for them to fall asleep quickly.
The morning of the twenty-seventh dawned brightly, Bella waking before her husband so that she could call in a room service order. Taking the opportunity to begin getting ready without the intrusion of her husband and his deliciously dirty mind, Bella went into the shower so that she'd be out before the food arrived.
With a robe wrapped around her, Bella emerged just a few moments before the knock signaled the arrival of breakfast. Tipping the server, she pushed the cart to the far side of the bed as Edward began to stir.
"You ordered food?"
"The surest way to get you out of bed in the morning is with a strong cup of coffee," Bella joked as Edward's eyes got dark.
"The surest way to get me out of bed would have been to invite me into your shower," Edward teased back as he took the offered cup of coffee and reached for his fork to try his pancakes.
The couple ate at their leisure, with it only being ten in the morning and the event not starting until two, with the main speeches starting at three. Once breakfast was done the cart was moved outside and Edward took the time to shower while Bella worked on drying her hair.
Once that task was done, she weaved the silver locks into a twist that would keep it off her neck on what was sure to be a warm day, and then moved to start doing her makeup. Edward admired his bride from the bathroom doorway as she worked to get ready, still as lovely as the day they'd met. Though their hair had turned gray and their once tight skin gave away the evidence of a well-lived life, there was still plenty of vitality to Dr. and Mrs. Masen as was evidenced by the love they so freely shared even after forty-three years of marriage.
Mrs. Masen noticed her husband's attention as she stood to get dressed and threw her towel at him and told him to get a move on or they'd be late to meet the kids at twelve.
A little while later, Bella and Edward walked the few blocks from the hotel to Independence Avenue SW where they were supposed to meet their family. Edward was surprised to only see Christopher and his wife, Ellen, with their two kids waiting for them, but after a quick hello, they found out the reason for that.
"One of the military guys who's here on some official capacity for the ceremony served with Brian, so he started talking to Denise and the kids and then got them onto the site without any trouble. It seems they're trying to make sure that all the veterans get priority, but he used his pull to get them in and he let the cops know that we're waiting for you, so that we can all get in without a problem. Otherwise they wouldn't have let us in until one pm."
"I'm glad she ran into someone who could help," Bella commented. Even with Brian gone, several of his old buddies checked in on Denise and the kids when they could, and moments like this were made easier because of their help.
"Well, we better get in there before it gets too crowded and we can't find them," Edward said, and the six of them began to walk towards the road that would lead them around to the entrance for the memorial.
As they walked across the pathways, they came to the section of grass that came alongside the memorial, which was cordoned off with barricades and filled with seats towards the front. Many men and women were coming out of the Tent City with their nametags and taking their seats, or being organized by their branch of military for the part of the ceremony that would continue later and end in Arlington at a later point in the week. For now it was just those who had been granted clearance into the ceremony finding a comfortable place to congregate. It didn't take them long to spot their crew, and Bella was shocked by the familiar face they saw standing next to Denise.
"Carlisle?" Bella exclaimed as she moved through the chairs to the young man who she regarded as family from the moment he was born.
"Hi, Aunt Bella, I'm glad I ran into you before the ceremony starts. Grandpa gave me strict instructions for this week and so far I'm not failing him." He smiled in a way that made him look so much like his namesake.
"You're going to sit with us during the ceremony, right, Son?" Edward asked and he nodded.
"Yes, I was just explaining that the stage is parallel with the trees at the point of the memorial, so they're keeping family to the edges so the veterans get the best view, but being tucked in this corner is probably for the best because you're close to the memorial itself so once the speeches are done you'll be able to enter it pretty quickly and then can walk around it and exit to the street," Carlisle explained.
"Then why don't we claim our seats and catch up some?" Bella suggested and their large group took their seats and passed the time.
It didn't go unnoticed how Carlisle and Denise seemed drawn to each other, but they'd been close since they were kids with how close they were in age. Bella remembered how their timing had never seemed to be right, but now, things might just lay the foundation for something to come.
The time moved as the seats and standing area on the grass filled, the military personnel taking their positions and finally those there to dedicate the memorial filing in, including the President of the United States and President Kim of South Korea. From the information that Eric had given them when he got the passes for their family, it would be close to 150,000 there between representatives of the UN Forces, US military, families, Korean troops, and dignitaries.
Eric's work with preserving his own unit's information had given him access to the memorial as someone aiding them, and had helped to make sure that anyone who was connected to the 8076 was able to get inside the ceremony today, something the Masens took advantage of.
Just before two o'clock the ceremony began with the ceremonial music and a blessing from a former Army Chaplin who had served in Korea. From there, a member of the memorials committee began to describe the design.
"The most prominent aspect of the memorial is the unit of nineteen soldiers you see here before you. Larger than life in their stature, they are an accurate representation of the forces in Korea, both in regards to the branches of the military and the ethnicities of those who served. They march in formation, emerging from the trees and through the juniper bushes, which are meant to mimic the wild and rugged landscape of Korea. At the point of the formation is an inscription to the bravery of those who served in Korea just before the flag. At the tip of the monument is the Pool of Remembrance and the field of service, as the main area is called, is flanked on the left by the United Nations Curb, listing the twenty-two nations who fought and the losses they suffered so that they could not be forgotten, and on the right is the Mural Wall.
"The Mural Wall is 41 panels of etched stone, which from afar appear to resemble the mountains of Korea, but when you get close you see the faces of real veterans. These are the support staff, the engineers, the Navy vessels, the doctors, nurses, and supply convoys that allowed the soldiers to do their jobs, illustrating the jobs that go unnoticed when one thinks of war. This monument remembers all, and honors them for their courage and sacrifice."
The man stepped down and then it was time for the President of South Korea to begin speaking. He spoke briefly, as did General Davis, who introduced President Clinton. As Bella and Edward listened to his words honoring their time in Korea, their minds drifted to the things they saw there and the people they'd known. Bella's tears began to fall as he spoke eloquently about the groundwork the Korean War had laid for the later portions of the Cold War and the prospering of South Korea after they'd won their battle against Communism.
With the final words of the President, the ceremony ended and the memorial was opened to the people who were lined up closest to it. The Masen family entered the walkway to the left of the statues and walked slowly with the pace of the other veterans, pointing things out to their kids and grandkids as they went.
The numbers of killed and missing for each nation was still as sad to think about now as it was when they heard the numbers during the announcement of the armistice. The images etched into the granite were beautiful from a distance, but they could tell that once they reached the other side it would truly be a sight.
As they reached the point of the triangle, Bella read the words they'd heard echoed throughout the afternoon, "Our Nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."
Coming around the pool and to the far side with the Mural Wall, Susan had Edward and Bella pose in front of the soldiers in the field before Carlisle offered to take a family shot. With the kids wrangled, they snapped a few pictures and then moved down the wall. As they reached a particular portion of the wall, Bella gasped, but not for the reason the others would have thought.
"Edward, is that you and Jasper?" Bella asked as she pointed to an etching of a surgical team around an operating table.
"And Alice," he confirmed, "that was taken when we first got to Korea. Poor Eric was doing double duty trying to chronicle the war from the beginning, but he has quite a collection of photos to show for it, and it seems that a few of his made the wall."
"Why do you say that?" Bella asked.
"Grammy, is that you?" Joseph, Pamela's nine year-old son, asked as he pointed to a spot just down the wall.
Bella followed his little finger to see the image in question. "Oh, my God. Yes, Joseph, that was your Grammy when she was young."
"I still can't believe you were there for a year after Grandpa Edward was sent home, Gram," Alicia, Susan's eldest daughter, commented.
"It wasn't the easiest year of our marriage, but it taught us a lot about patience," Edward told his granddaughter.
"And the importance of a well written letter," Bella added.
They finished their walk through the memorial, taking in the last of the images before they vanished past the trees and back towards the street.
"Okay, everyone, we've got a reservation for five at Old Ebbitt Grill, so do you want to explore the Mall a little more, and then drive the ten minutes to the restaurant?" Denise asked and everyone seemed to approve of the plan so they walked to the Lincoln Memorial and then to the Vietnam Memorial.
As more people seemed to follow their lead, and the kids grew restless, the adults corralled them and walked to where they'd parked on that side of the Mall and headed out to the restaurant.
The boisterous group of twenty was quickly seated upon their arrival at the restaurant and dinner passed as big family functions did for the Masen Family, with lots of conversation, laughter, and love.
The 8076 luncheon would take up a good portion of the day that Friday, but thankfully everyone was there through Sunday afternoon so they had a day and a half to spend together once the events were completed. The kids were mostly at an age now where some of the memorials and museums would be fun, and Edward and Bella loved the opportunity to have all the grandkids with them at a place that wasn't their home in Seattle, so the extra time in Washington was a blessing.
That night after the memorial dedication, Bella and Edward returned to their room and curled up together in bed. The day weighed heavy on them and Edward knew that the dark and his loving arms would make it easier for Bella to talk.
"I didn't expect to make it through today without the memories winning out, but I never thought it would be that visceral," Bella whispered.
"You did seem a little distant during parts of the ceremony and then again as we walked the monument," Edward said to encourage her to let it out.
"Did you notice one of the statues was Native American? It reminded me of Jacob…it's been forty-three years since he was taken from us, and I can still hear him teasing me down at First Beach when we were kids."
"Those are the important memories to think about. Remember him happy and safe, not the way he was when we had to say good-bye."
"Royce is someone else who hasn't left me alone recently. I keep remembering the day before he died…it was a normal OR session, but when we got out I noticed that he was having trouble getting his gown off, so I helped him off with it. All he said was thank you, but either because of how tired he was, or if it was a strange moment of premonition, it was the most heartfelt thing he'd ever said to me. The next day I was dragging him out of a minefield we hadn't known was buried in that hillside, and trying without much hope to save his life."
"You'll never know what he was thinking, Bella, but I don't think Royce was a jerk because he hated us, one and all, I think he was trying to protect himself from us. Making friends in a warzone is begging for heartache, so he kept us at a distance. Right before I came home he said he both envied me the courage to open myself up to the people we served with, and pitied me the foolishness of the same action. He said he never knew which was right, but he'd rather come off as a hardass." Edward thought about those memories for a moment before he commented, "I could never regret the friendships I'd made, or the risk I took opening my heart to you. You were an angel in hell and as soon as I realized what I stood to lose if I didn't make things right with you, I promised myself to never let you go."
"And you never will, Edward," Bella whispered.
"Did you know that you were going to be on the wall?" Edward asked after a little while.
"No, Eric said that they'd asked for some photos and since he had all of his photos professionally backed up onto discs when he was in the process of making the scrapbook for the luncheon, he simply let them look through one of his sets of photos. He's had enough printed over the years so that he would always have a full set that wasn't damaged," Bella told Edward.
"Those computer discs must give him some piece of mind then, knowing that he's got two sets of the discs to preserve our portion of the war's history." Edward yawned as sleep slowly began to take him.
"Yes, and his kids are happy that he was able to archive it, it will be something for them to show their kids and grandkids when they're old enough."
"Just like you and Alice have," Edward said.
"Yes, now let's go to sleep before I wind up talking to myself again," Bella teased as they both gave in to their exhaustion.
Edward let Bella sleep in as much as possible the next morning, but with the luncheon starting at noon, they had to be there at eleven a.m. to help Eric with last minute details. Alice and Jasper would be there as well, and it would give them a chance to find out what they thought of the memorial, since they hadn't seen them there.
There was going to be about forty or so members of the company and their spouses out of the nearly one hundred and seventy-five that served in the 8076 during the war. A memory wall was made to honor those who had passed away since they'd last seen each other in the final days of the war, and some of those who hadn't been able to attend sent along messages to be displayed during the afternoon.
The trio that had worked so hard to put everything together were quite happy with this turnout, as they only had correct info for about seventy of the members of the company that were still living, many having moved during the intervening years and others had told them that their time in the war was one they would like to forget.
The alarm went off at ten, and after a shower, Bella started to get ready while Edward began his routine. They were fortunate that they'd booked one of the ballrooms in their hotel for the event, which had been a majority of their financial contribution to the event, because it meant that they only had to go downstairs to be at the venue.
As they met up with Eric just before eleven, he showed them the memory wall panels that had to be set out on easels and the video setup that he had rented to show the few home movies he'd had converted as well as some of the tapes from those who wouldn't be there in person.
"You've all outdone yourselves," Edward said to Eric as he looked at everything they had planned. "And don't think we missed your contributions to the wall yesterday."
"I was happy to offer them the pictures, and I was just as surprised as you were that they'd used the few they did."
"It was quite moving to look up and see your likeness etched into the marble," Alice said from behind them, alerting the group to the Whitlocks arrival.
"Alice, Jasper, it's good to see you again," Eric said as he hugged them both and took them around, leaving Edward and Bella to get to work.
It wasn't long before the ballroom was set and the guests started to arrive. As Bella and Edward greeted their old unit members, Bella noticed a familiar looking young couple. Walking away from one of the nurses who had been with the unit during Bella's time as the Head Nurse, she approached Carlisle to find her daughter there with him.
"Hi, Mom," Denise said, blushing.
"Hi, Bella," Carlisle said with a smile, hoping to dispel some of the awkwardness.
"Carlisle, it's good to see you again," Bella said as she motioned for Denise to take a walk with her. "I didn't know you two were together."
"We aren't together, Mom, or at least, not yet," Denise groaned at her mother's assumption. "Carlisle and I have always been good friends, and over the last ten months since he came to Brian's funeral we've reconnected, but we don't know what it is and we're not in a rush."
"That's good, you still have time if you two wanted to have more kids, after all you're only thirty-three-"
"Mother," Denise let out an exasperated cry and Edward and Carlisle came to her rescue.
"Bella, love, stop torturing the girl. It's good to see you, Sweetheart. Who did you get for babysitting duty?" Edward asked to take the focus off the budding couple.
"Susan and Pam's daughters jumped at the chance to play with them, it was so sweet," Denise gushed as the hotel staff started to open the buffet line.
Taking the opportunity to end the inquiry, Denise led the way to the buffet and the guests filled their plates and sat at the tables set out for them. Peter and his wife Charlotte, along with Garrett and his Kate sat at Bella and Edward's table, as did their daughter and the Colonel's grandson and Angela Cheney and her husband. Having friends so close after all the time that had passed warmed Bella's heart, as they caught up on the decades that had passed and swapped photos of their families during the meal.
The food was good and many joked about how they wouldn't have minded if the Mess had served food like this.
Once the meal had been cleared away, Eric put on the various tapes sent in from their friends. Rosalie and Emmett, who had arrived a little late, pulled their chairs out from the table behind Bella's so they could chat quietly as they watched the messages.
When it came time for Carlisle's video, the room grew silent as they listened to the words of their commanding officer. Having between ten and twenty years on most of his troops, Carlisle's age showed in his posture and his respiratory problems, but in his eyes and his gentle words they saw the man that had kept them safe for three years.
The room saluted their commander when his speech was done, bringing tears to young Carlisle and Denise's eyes as they saw the love these people still had for each other.
With the last tribute video finished, the veterans began to mingle again, catching up with old friends and taking photos with most of the people in the room. Many made a trip to the memory wall to see the faces of the people who weren't in the room and remember those they lost both at war and in the time that followed.
The time seemed to slip away from them as it was almost time for them to clear out, but Eric had another surprise for them before they left. "If everyone could give me one moment, on your way out, we have a little surprise for you. While going through photos to have them preserved and giving some photos to the committee when they were first designing the wall, I made quite a scrapbook of our time together. I found a photographer who was able to make a photo book out of my pictures and there's one for each member of the unit. So, just swing by on your way out and we'll give you a copy of the book. We have another twenty minutes before our time today is up, so on behalf of Mrs. Masen and Mrs. Whitlock, I'd like to say thank you for making this day possible. We've carried the memory of each other with us every day for the last forty-two years, it was good to see the men and women we remember so fondly again."
With another round of applause, the group joked and spoke a little longer before Carlisle got everyone together for a group photo that he promised to mail out to everyone using Eric's mailing list. After the final shutter flash, the good-byes began, leaving the doctors and their wives along with their first head nurse and head of their motor pool, their company clerk, and their commander's grandson behind. Denise watched her parents interact with those they hadn't seen in a long time, the last goodbyes being said before they took their things with them so that the hotel staff could begin to prepare for that evening's event.
"That was a really beautiful thing to see, Dad. We've all heard you talk about the war as much as you are willing to, but that was different. It was nice to see you with the people who lived through it with you. And how you still honor the ones you lost all those years ago."
"You're thinking about Brian?" Edward asked.
"I'll always love him, Dad, but Carlisle makes me feel good, and I need that after the last ten months," Denise said.
"Loving someone else doesn't negate what you felt for Brian, and you two are being smart about it. Brian would want you to be happy, Sweetheart."
"I know, thanks, Dad."
"Not a problem. We'll see you tomorrow for the tour of DC with everyone," Edward said as he gave her a hug goodbye.
Bella waved off her daughter and Carlisle before heading back upstairs to relax with her husband. "She's going to be all right."
"She will," Edward agreed. "Now, we've spent the last few days remembering the past, and I'd like to spend the rest of our trip solidly in the present with my lovely wife. How does that sound?"
"Like just what the doctor ordered," Bella said with a laugh as they stepped into the elevator to return to their room.