Disclaimer: I don't own GI Joe.
*Happy Memorial Day.*
"Get this through your head! We're not fighting to have everybody think the way we do…we're fighting so that people can have the right to think what they want! Even if they don't agree with us! Dr. Burkhart's got her opinions and you've got yours. Somewhere in the middle lies an agreeable solution. That's the democratic system. It ain't perfect, but it's the best we got."
Stalker to Rip Cord, from "GI Joe: A Real American Hero", issue #39 (Marvel)
The wall was eternal.
This particular wall had no name. It wasn't the Vietnam Wall, but the place it held in the hearts of the classified military unit known as GI Joe was equivalent to the war memorial. Just as the Vietnam memorial held the names of lost comrades, this one was also a symbolic place of remembrance for the soldiers of the Pit.
It was a simple memorial, tucked against a section of wall by the Pit infirmary. There were no names posted on the wall, save code names that had been scrawled onto the paint with pen or a small photograph of a deceased soldier. A tiny, narrow table was pressed against the wall like a miniature altar. There was a tiny candle on it and small jar of incense that the occasional Joe would light.
The dark skinned figure of an army doctor stood in front of the impromptu memorial. Doc stared at the long list of casualties, of men and women he hadn't been able to save. This was how it had begun. This space of wall had been the place that Dr. Carl Greer would retreat to for privacy after a casualty report came in. He would stare at the wall for a while before returning to his duty.
What had simply been the private space for one man was slowly converted into a place for all. Doc added the first names to the wall. Other Joes began to as well. The table was added later, courtesy of Medic Lifeline. After that, it became a tiny sanctuary in the midst of their hectic lives. Joes and Greenshirts would sometimes pause for long moments of contemplation. Other times it was a momentary salute or nod as a man or woman passed by. It was always treated with respect.
Doc saluted the memorial now known as The Wall and returned to the infirmary.
The Wall had no religious symbols. There was no need. Its only other adornment was a small American Flag on the table. It was a place of remembrance, not only for those of the Pit who'd died in service of their country, but for all who had given their lives or limbs.
Another figure walked by. A greenshirt by the name of James Ren nodded to it and kept going. The young Marine had already lost many friends and teammates.
The day continued. Figures came and went. Lady Jaye placed roses. Beach Head polished the table. Footloose burnt a stick of incense. By the end of the day, a weary Lifeline added a new name to The Wall. The Joes showed their respect in different ways. Storm Shadow, shortly after joining the Joes, would sometimes pause for long moments in front of the memorial. Sometimes he placed a nickel or a five yen coin on the table. He would clap his hands two times, bow, and then depart.
Those who had been in a position of command tended to stay the longest. Sometimes they would stand there and stare into space, as if remembering every soldier who had died under their command.
Hawk always left a small glass of whiskey or Jack Daniels on the table.
The Wall had moved many times from post to post and it would move again. After the destruction of the Fort Wadsworth Pit, the Joes and greenshirts were horrified to discover bullet holes in The Wall. Its candle and table were shattered. The desecration of the memorial sent shockwaves of rage through all military personnel. However, The Wall endured, as it always did.
A new Pit was built in Utah. The Wall was rebuilt. The candle, incense, codenames, and American flag were present yet again. This time, it was tucked into a tiny space in the living quarters, as if in a spot that had been especially created for it. If it had been designed with The Wall in mind, the architects and engineers neglected to say.
There was a new table, this time built from scratch from an enterprising Joe. A little red cloth was now draped over it. The flame of the candle continued to burn. This time, the candle never went out. When an old candle neared the end of its life, it was replaced with a new one.
Life at the Pit went on. Men and women saluted the tiny Wall or sometimes simply stood and studied it. An odd assortment of gifts would occasionally appear: flowers, empty artillery shells, fishing lures, the occasional cup of sake…Sometimes there was a folded up and sealed letter that no one ever attempted to open or sneak a peek into. The letters were always burned in a tiny ceremony. After the gifts and letters built up, a few Joes would volunteer to collect the items and dispose of them respectfully.
The Joes collectively took care of the Wall because they were its caretakers. The living remembered the dead and knew that someday they would join them. It might be on the field of battle or it might be after they became elderly grandparents, telling war stories to the child on their knee. They were part of The Wall. They were The Wall.
And The Wall was eternal.
Note: Storm Shadow placed a five yen coin on the table because it is common practice at Shinto Shrines. This coin is considered good luck and is offered at shrines because of it. You can google five yen coin for more information.