Dick walks through the Catholic Cemetery in his small home town. Green grass, freshly cut, ripples in the wind, the field waiting for more memorials changing hue every passing moment. The festivities, and Dick thinks about how strange a word that is, are in the other graveyard, on the other side of town. People decked out in red, white, and blue, paying their respects, such as they are, to men they never knew who did and suffered things they really do not care to think about.
Jim knew though. In the end, he knew it all, and Dick stands at the edge of his best high school friends grave and sets the flowers down. They did not serve together, but they went in at the same time, right out of high school. Two poor kids getting college money, Jim in the Air Force, Dick in the Marines. It was not supposed to be like this. The Cold War over before they got to middle school, and only a few random nut jobs here and there, and while Dick was in Hawaii and Jim in Germany some assholes decided to hijack four planes. Then things changed.
Dick never made it to Afghanistan, or to Iraq. He was kept in Hawaii, pulling sailors and marines off each other. Jim, the pencil pusher, found himself in Kandahar. Still pushing pencils, doing the tiny, detail bullshit that most people never think about, on his way back to the barracks, two months in, and IED took him out. No more Jim.
He is out now. Dick did ten plus two more years of stop-loss and took a reduced pension, and his GI Bill money and is going to school. He has to listen to civilians who do not know shit about shit talk about it. It is difficult to say what is worse, the lefties who think they are all baby killers, or the righties who worship them without a thought, never really thinking what it must be like.
It does not really matter today. Today Dick puts the flowers down, reflects for a moment for all the hopes and dreams Jim had when they said good-bye in the Greyhound station fifteen years ago. He wonders why Jim’s dreams could not come true. He wonders and is left wondering, what it is all for.