The American Military Cemetery – Madingley, England
Just outside Cambridge, England there is a little piece of the USA. Held in perpetuity, in honor of her people who gave their lives during WWII.
I knew him.
His heart beat, his eyes shone with happiness and sometimes, when he didn’t think I was looking, glazed with tears. He lived, he felt, he was as vibrant, as energetic, as immortal as the rest of them. As immortal as I was. Back then. When all seemed so dark and yet so gay, so much to live for. So little time left to live it.
He was brave. Not the John Wayne ‘Storm the beaches’ brave. Just quietly brave, in the way so many were.
“It’s just got to be done so I guess we better get it done.”
His bravery was in that thought. No cold senseless soul, no ignorance of fear, no willingness to die. Just a steadfast resolution that he would do his duty. For himself, for his family, his friends, his comrades in arms, for his country.
I knew him. I wasn’t his girl, I was just his friend but he made me laugh and smile those nights in the pub. He conjured up a different world when he spoke of New York and how he had sailed out from there, admitting his own wonder at the skyscrapers. He told me how he missed his home, nestling in a small town in California and how strange he felt, being here in England, flying over Europe and yet he’d never even made it to visit San Francisco or Los Angeles. He laughed and said they were the first two places he was going to go when he got back home. He held me enthralled with his stories and through his voice I saw the images so vividly. I yearned with dreams of Hollywood and sunshine, right there inside that little pub in Cambridgeshire. He longed to go home and he made me long to visit those exciting places, so far off and so unobtainable to me then. My world was all within fifteen miles of that pub and I never thought I’d see the Californian sunshine.
How funny he would have thought me when I finally did travel there. To San Francisco, Los Angeles, Hollywood. The tourist in the big wide world. I looked at each and every sight, and remembered what it looked like, so that I could bring the memories back and share them with him. Oh Lord, I would swap each and every visit I have made over the years to see those cities, if only he could have seen them once. If only he could have gone home.
I knew him. He was an airman. He died for me, for mine, for peace and for freedom. He died in the service of his country. Many may argue about the futility of death, of war, of man’s inhumanity to man and on occasion I may even agree; but I will never forget that he died not in vain, but in honor.
Ian Andrew is the author of the alternative history novel A Time To Every Purpose, the detective thrillers Face Value and Flight Path and the Little Book of Silly Rhymes & Odd Verses. All are available in e-book and paperback. Follow him on social media:
All images © Ian Andrew other than where marked ©DPC (Dollar Photo Club)