Memorial Day 2019
Raindrops pattered down on the grass and grave stones with a steady, gentle rhythm. The flowers planted for Memorial Day swayed in the breeze, trembling from the impact of the rain. The little American flags marking the final resting places of soldiers dripped and swayed gently, holding their heads up proudly to the inclement weather like sentries at each graveside.
A woman and her four-year old daughter walked through the grounds. The woman with rain-dampened strawberry blonde hair somberly nodded at each marked grave. This was an ordinary cemetery. Servicemen and women and police officers and firefighters who had given their lives in the line of duty were marked here, but they were scattered sparsely throughout the wooded grounds. The ever-present breeze swirling around the woman lifted the flags and made them ripple as she approached each grave.
“Mommy, are there any heroes here?” the girl asked Gayle. “Do you know any of these people?”
“Yes, Spring. I knew some of them. And yes, there are some heroes whose bodies are buried here, too, but not many.”
Her daughter—simple blue knit dress and honey blonde hair as dry as if it were a sunny morning on a cloudless day—bent down and picked up a flag. She waved it and water sheeted off the wet fabric and wooden stick. She waved it some more and smiled. Turning her face up to her mother, she asked, “Can I keep this?”
Gayle peered down at the granite gravestone. “Don’t you think Sergeant Bernard Steers would like to have his stone marked for people to visit?”
Spring frowned and looked down at the wet stone face of the grave marker. “Who was he?”
“Let’s find out.” Her mother asked the question of her wristband electronics and extended her holographic display with a swipe up. Data flooded the screen. Gayle scrolled through it quickly and explained, “Sergeant Steers was a U.S. Army veteran. Born 1912 and died 1989. He served in the army in World War Two. He was in the D-Day invasion and fought in France, Belgium, and Germany. Um... let me check his record. He married Inez Gruenwald in Germany. They lived in Kansas and moved to Massachusetts where he was a supervising architect for lots of Venture City buildings when they were building the city after the war. They had kids and grandkids and great grandkids.”
“So, he wasn’t a hero? He didn’t die fighting the Nazis?”
Gayle shook her head. “Nope, he didn’t die fighting the Nazis. He was an ordinary guy who went through some horrible, terrifying things to help save the world for freedom, but he didn’t have powers. I can tell he was a leader, because they made him a sergeant. I know that he was brave because he was in lots of scary situations and did what he had to do, anyway. He probably gave the people who followed him a little courage to face their fears. He may have been a hero in those little everyday moments I keep telling you about, but he didn’t have to give his life for others. He died peacefully of old age, it looks like. And he left behind some great things—buildings, and parks, and the city water system, and memories, and friends, and kids. He did some great things and made the world a better place through his work and his family.”
The little girl considered that thoughtfully, turning from side to side as she idly swished the flag. “So, if he wasn’t a hero, then why does he need a flag?”
Gayle smiled. “Being a hero is about choices, dear. Mister Steers chose to serve his country, putting himself in danger to protect what he believed in. Lots of people were volunteering to do that then, but still, that was his own, personal choice. That was everyday heroism. That’s what we recognize on Memorial Day. We remember the people who gave their lives so that others might live, and we also honor the people who died later if they served our country.”
“So, he was a hero? Just not like grandma?”
Her mother nodded. “He was willing to risk himself for others. So was Grandma Jen. But your grandma had powers, like us, and when the K’rk’ti attacked she was in a place to stop them. She used her powers to save others. Even though she knew she might die, she had to try. She might not have succeeded, but she did, at least for the people on those planes at the airport. And at her grave back in Milwaukee she has flags today.” Her eyes moistened as her focused drifted off in remembrance, having nothing to do with the rain.
Spring considered this with all the gravity of a precocious four-year old. She nodded sagely and bent down to insert the stick of the flag back into the wet ground. “I guess Mister Steers should have his flag. People should remember him, too.”
“That’s my girl,” Gayle replied with a wistful smile. “We remember our heroes, powers or not, whether they gave their lives or not. They made the choices that made them heroes, whether those choices were big ones or little ones.”
“I’m going to be a hero, too,” the dry little mutant girl declared firmly. “Like you and daddy and grandma. I can make it not rain on people.”
Gayle laughed. “You keep on making your own good choices and it will happen!”
She bent down and hugged her daughter.
They continued to walk through the cemetery visiting the graves of the veterans and the honored dead. Gayle didn’t mind the rain and Spring brought her own weather wherever she went. They paid their respects at each of the marked graves. Then they went home to Riverhaven, leaving behind only the flowers in the rain.
A Wing and a Prayer, A Strong, Strong Wind, All Forests are One - Venture City metahuman novels in the spirit of City of Heroes and other comic book superhero fiction. (http://bit.ly/sdpbooks)