The Folded Flag – part 1

We stood at attention. Every muscle in our bodies was tense, ready for action, just as we’d been taught. Our faces, expressionless, our eyes, straight ahead, just as we’d been taught. My mind was racing, though, going in all sorts of directions that it had never been taught. I watched numbly as two Honor Guardsmen stepped forward with an American flag. In the crisp movements that are second nature to all military personnel, the two men turned to face each other and stretched the flag out between them at waist level. Red. White. Blue. The colors pierced through the black and white fog in my mind and my swirling thoughts began to pull together, spinning downward in a smaller and smaller stream like a funnel cloud arcing towards the ground until they came to rest on one particular thought. One memory. One man.

His name was Levi Habanero: like the pepper.


This is, in fact, how he introduced himself to me the first time we met. I had been on the base for no more than two minutes. I was reveling in the knowledge that I was actually there: Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, home of the 58th Special Operations Wing. This was where they trained the pararescue men. It had been my goal in life, from about age five, to work for the Air Force, and around age eight I locked onto the job of pararescue: parachuting in, down behind enemy lines to pull out our men who were in trouble. The thought exhilarated me as much at that moment as it had when I was a child. Anyway, I somehow found myself next to this kid, and he thrust his hand out to me, as though I had asked for an introduction.

“Levi Habanero,” he said, “like the pepper.” I raked him up and down with a cool gaze, then gave him what I hoped was an excruciatingly annoyed and skeptical look. But when the outstretched hand didn’t waver, I reluctantly grasped it.

“Sure,” I said, in reference to his introduction, then grudgingly offered my name. “Darby Thatcher.” He looked as though he were about to launch into one of those series of questions you ask people you have just met, so I turned quickly and began to move away. The kid struck me as odd, and besides, I was trying to have a moment.

– S.D. Bullard


~ by sdbullard on April 13, 2012.

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