In the courtyard outside the Quartermaster (the QM is their uniform and general purpose store) there is a line. I didn’t realize the line existed until I saw M for the very first time.
We stood at the far side of the courtyard with Sgt. W as we waited with anticipation for our first sighting. Suddenly, Sgt. W motioned to us that he could see him coming across the lawn. I asked if I could meet him half way. He responded, “You stay here; he has to walk the line.”
We stood frozen for what seemed like an eternity as we watched him walk up from his barracks, across the lawn, and through the courtyard – while staying directly on the line. As he tried to stray from this line to take a shortcut to get to us faster, Sgt. W advised him otherwise, with a smile on both of their faces. (I didn’t expect to see smiles today.)
Finally he arrived at the end of the line that only he and Sgt. W could see, turned, and then I met him half way. We hugged. His face was soft, like it used to feel. It felt so good to touch him. Hugs continued while each of us secretly tried to decode every single movement he made.
He asked if we wanted to see his room. Happily, we began to follow him back across the courtyard, and soon it became obvious to all of us that he was walking the line again. Suddenly, he laughed at himself and said, “I don’t know why I’m walking this line now; I guess it’s just habit.”
As we walked across the lawn, he brought us to a memorial that honored a former cadet who lost his life in the war. He paused, then continued our walk while he spoke about other fellow cadets.
Up ahead, we could see several cadets trying to hang a banner above the entrance to his barracks. (It was Homecoming Weekend, and each company participated in several competitions this weekend, including “Best Company Banner.”) The cadets attempting to hang the banner, all from American Samoa and all from M’s Bravo company, stopped to open the doors for us as we approached. We thanked them and commented on their current challenge. One of the cadets responded, “Well, if this was a coconut tree, we could have it up in no time.” Laughter again. I did not expect to hear laughter today.
Less than an hour later we were leaving his little room, and soon we discovered that the cadets outside the main doors were nearing the end of their challenge. M quickly jumped in to lend a helping hand. Within a few minutes they had their Bravo banner flying. There were seventeen of us admiring the banner that said it all…