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The Folded Flag - Part Two

Story ID:3685
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Fiction
Location:New York New York USA
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Part Two of - The Folded Flag

Mark was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, The Merican Regiment. In the first
months of his tour, he saw more horrors than he thought possible: men and women
with limbs blown off, bullet wounds, head injuries, and worse – death. No matter how
much he saw, he could never get used to it. He found it hard to sleep at night. Nothing
in his other life could have prepared him for this nightmare world of bombs, guns and

While on patrol south of Garmsir, in the southern Helmand Province of
Afghanistan, Mark’s company was attacked. An IED hit the vehicle in front of Mark’s
and exploded. The concussion from the blast knocked Mark to the floor of his truck. He
pulled himself up and saw the stricken vehicle engulfed in flames. Machinegun fire
erupted all around them. Mark noticed a soldier on his back next to the burning truck. He
was screaming and holding onto his leg. Without fear, Mark grabbed his medical pack
and rifle and leaped to the ground. He rounded his truck and dove to the ground, behind
the large front tire of his truck.

The injured soldier was thirty feet from him. His screaming had stopped. The loss
of blood was weakening him. Mark crawled toward forward. A bullet hit the dirt in front
of him. A rock flew up and cut his forehead.

He reached the wounded soldier, pulled supplies from the pack, and pressed a
thick bandage to the open wound to stem the blood flow. The soldier’s knee was badly
damaged. This fighter would be going home. If Mark had anything to do with it, he
would go home alive, but judging by the amount of blood pooled on the ground, Mark
had his doubts. Unless they could get a helicopter here in a hurry, this man would die.

For the first time, Mark looked at the face of the soldier he was trying to save
and was surprised to see it was a woman. She looked a lot like Shelly. “You’re going to
be OK!” He yelled over the gunfire and crackling flames. She stared back at him without
emotion. Mark knew shock from blood loss had set in.

While lying flat in the dirt, Mark worked on her leg. He knew she may lose the
leg, but she would live if they got her to help fast enough. She would live and be able
to have children if she wanted to. Mark could only think of Shelly as he worked. This
soldier deserved to live and experience what he and Shelly were going to experience
soon – new life.

“You’re going to be OK!” he yelled at her again. Mark’s helmet suddenly
flew in the air. When he looked up, something struck his head. Everything went black.
His body slumped over the wounded soldier, as if, even though unconscious, he protected
his comrade.


Mark woke in a helicopter. He tired to sit up, but a sharp pain in his head
forced him to lay back.

“Easy, Mark.” a fellow medic said. “You are one lucky man. The bullet
bounced off that thick skull of yours. A half inch to the left, and you’d be in a bag now.”

“The girl?” Mark turned his head to see if she was with them, but the pain in his
head made him nauseous. ”Is she OK?”

“She’s OK, buddy. Thanks to you. You were great out there. You saved her


Within a week, Mark was back on the front lines saving the injured. He braved
his own life many times on the battlefield to give life to his comrades. “He has no
fear.” one member of his unit said to another. “If I’m wounded in battle, I sure hope Mark
is close by.”

A month later, a roadside bomb took Mark’s life. A man who believed in his
flag, died for it.

When his commander learned of Mark’s death, he slumped back in his chair
and reread a message he’d received that morning. He had looked forward to telling
Mark that his wife had given birth that morning to a seven pound, eight ounce baby


Shelly sat in the front row between her parents and Mark’s. In her arm’s was
the newborn. She’d named her Marsha in memory of her father. In front of them was
Mark’s flag-draped coffin – the flag he cherished.

Throughout the service, Shelly was comforted by the two fathers she sat between.
They held her tight between them. Their strong arms assured her everything would be

The service ended. Shelly remembered none of it. Her pain blocked everything
from memory. The two fathers helped her stand and supported her to the waiting car.
At the cemetery, they led her to a waiting chair. She sat in shock. Family gathered
around the grave. Marsha began to cry. Shelly’s mother walked up, “I’ll hold her,
Shelly. She’ll be OK.”

“No! I want her with me!”

“Shelly, it’s OK. I’ll hold her for a bit.” Shelly submitted and allowed her mother
to take Mark’s baby from her.

Friends and family gathered behind Shelly. Members of the military carried
Mark’s casket to the hole in the ground and placed it on the straps that would lower Mark
into eternity. After assuring the flag was stretched taut and draped evenly, they stepped
away from the casket.

The minister spoke words of Marks courage, devotion to his country, and his
flag. When the minister finished, he stepped back, and the officer in charge, also known
as the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) stepped smartly forward, called
his men to arms, and initiated a one-gun salute.

The minister stepped forward again and gave the benediction, as those gathered
comforted each other. From somewhere behind them, a bugler began to play “Taps”.
It’s eloquent and haunting notes floated over and around those gathered – Mark’s
goodbye. In the back of the crowd, a young woman in a wheelchair cried softly.

The burial detail approached the casket and saluted. Two of the detail faced each other, held the flag horizontally between them at waist height, and made thirteen folds.
When they were done, they’d created a triangle of blue filled with stars. The stars were
most important. They reminded those in attendance of our country’s national motto, “In
God We Trust”.

The flag was then placed in the white-gloved hands of the NCOIC. Under normal
circumstances, he would have placed the flag into the hands of the minister, but this time
he stood still, and waited. Movement from the rear made people turn. The woman in the
wheelchair was pushed forward by a soldier from Mark’s company. When they
reached the NCOIC, they saluted. The NCIOC then placed the folded flag in the
woman’s hands, who also wore white gloves. The soldier turned her wheelchair in Shelly’s direction.

Shelly wiped her tears as they approached. The soldier wheeled the woman to
Shelly and stopped. “Shelly, you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. My name is
Joanne. Shelly, if not for Mark, I would have lost my leg or even my live. He was a brave
and patriotic man.” Shelly tried not to cry, but it was impossible.

“Shelly, I begged my commander to be here today and to be the one to present
this flag to you. Mark risked his life for me and then gave his life saving others.” She
began to cry. “The thing is, I wish I didn’t have to be here today. I wish Mark was alive.”

Shelly managed a weak “Thank you” as she accepted the folded flag.

Michael T. Smith
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