He lives alone now and he often thinks of his beautiful wife of many years. He recalls the many happy days they had together. It makes him smile as he lives in that lonely old house.
He looks down at the old wooden box he made many years ago out in his barn. He reaches over, picks it up, and the memories start to flow. Every time the grandkids come over, they have to see that box. They plead for the Old Veteran to tell those old war stories. He protects the grandkids though, and never tells all the facts of what that old box could reveal.
As he opens the old box and again sees all the faded medals, his mind travels far back in time. He’s old, but he still remembers all the horror that distinguished him as a young man in a far away country. He sits there quietly, hoping none of his family will ever experience the pain that earned him these honors.
He will never forget his brave friend that died so gallantly by his side that miserable night. It all becomes real once again in his mind. The old Veteran holds the box tight in his hands. He sits there and remembers each day that brought his platoon into that jungle valley.
Walking through those thick vines as darkness overtook the day was a memory that will never be erased. Listening for any small sound that could save their lives, knowing it will be even worse when the darkness comes. He had never been trained for this, nothing could teach you not to fear. He looked to his brothers for comfort, but only saw the same fear in their eyes, as well.
The darkness had brought them to a small clearing that lay just ahead. He remembers stopping just short of the clearing. Battle wisdom had taught his platoon not to enter a killing field at night. He watched as they settled in, with weapon in hand. No one would sleep that night, because that day had brought them deep inside an unknown territory.
Quietly they opened some rations and started to eat. Suddenly, someone saw something up ahead in the clearing. It was the dim shape of someone carrying a weapon. They waited with caution, ready to light up the night with fire. Everyone in the platoon knew not to fire on just one person. He had been sent ahead as a scout for the many that followed. They watched as the lone VC vanished back into the thick black jungle.
The old Veteran held one of his medals, feeling the cold brass where it attached to a soft silk ribbon. He wiped away a small tear from the corner of his eye as he returned the medal to the box.
He made his way to the bedroom where he again hid the old box on the shelf in his closet. The Veteran then returned to sit in the quiet, thinking now of his grandkids, and wishing his wife was still alive to be with him. Maybe tonight his dreams will be of better days, but it was very doubtful. He closed his eyes and rocked softly as the night closed in.
Sleep well tonight my brave Veteran, sleep well.