I’m shivering again. I have nothing else to do. We crouch here in the muddy sand, a light mist trying to drench our already soaking uniforms. I lift my hand from the bandages pressed to my side. Warmth trickles through my fingers. We can’t find the medic.
I didn’t think it would be like this.
I left home to be a hero, not to cower in the sand with the crabs…if there are any left after today.
What did I do that was so heroic? Storm a beach and get shot?
I swallow the pain. I can’t let the others see. I can’t let them know I’m weak.
What is the point this is? The point of us all lying here in the sand bleeding? I can hear men around me groaning, screaming for help. Explosions in the distance make the ground shudder. I want to cry but the tears won’t come.
What are we fighting for?
A warm hand slips into mine. My head is lifted gently. “Darren, I’m here. It’s Richard.”
I must be hallucinating. I thought Richard had gone down—he had fallen beneath me when the bullets…
“Argh..ughh…” It slips out no matter how hard I try to keep it in.
“Shh. I’m here.”
Richard pulls me into his arms, he rubs the mud from my face.
“Wha?—I thought you were dead.”
“You pushed me down,” Richard whispers. “You took the bullet for me.”
“Huh—?” I try to sit up but Richard won’t let me.
“Another bullet grazed my head.” Richard’s voice wavers. “When I came to, I saw you. I tried to—” His words catch.
“So this is it,” There is a bitter edge to my voice but I don’t care. It hurts too much. My heart aches worse than my wounds. “I fought for nothing.”
Richard’s grip tightens on me. He holds back the tears fillings his eyes. “No. No, Darren.”
“What then? Why are we fighting?”
“For Annie. The little girl who lives next to us back home. We’re fighting so she can have another tomorrow.”
I hold back another moan. Annie. The blond-haired first grader who gave me a candybar before I left.
“For Mrs. Crandall, the grumpy old widow who snuck us cookies when no one else was watching. We’re fighting so that she can keep giving cookies to other boys and girls.”
I swallow hard. I can still taste her cookies. She pretended to be nasty to us but she always had some treat to give us each Saturday.
“For all those little boys and girls we saw in England—We’re fighting so they can grow up. So that they never have to be separated from their parents again.” Richard strokes my face. “For the world, Darren. We’re fighting to keep this world free.” I struggle to pull in another breath, his words calming my aching heart. “In this life, we may never see the end of this war, but we’re the hope for tomorrow. We’re the flame that keeps freedom alive. We fight, we bleed—” His voice breaks. “We die—so that others can see another sunrise. Another year. Another decade.”
A soft smile pulls up the corners of my mouth. “Go and fight, Richard. Push back this darkness. Give the world a chance at tomorrow.”