Sentinel of The Tomb
I walk across the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery as the sun is starting to rise. Their approaching rays wash over the ground bathing my fellow soldiers in warmth as they lie in their final resting place. I am in awe of the view and proud to have been chosen to guard the Tomb of the Unknowns, which has been guarded 24 hours a day 365 days a year since 1937.
To earn this privilege I had to memorize and recite verbatim the seven page history of Arlington National Cemetery. I memorized the names and grave locations of nearly 300 of our fallen brothers and sisters, and learned the guard-change ceremony and the manual of arms that takes place during the inspection portion of the Changing of the Guard in order to earn a “walk”.
Today is April 1st, my first 24 hour shift, and I’m eager as I make my way to the Tomb Guard Quarters below the Memorial Display Room of the Memorial Amphitheater. I put on my uniform and inspect my M-14 rifle one last time before heading to the plaza for the Changing of the Guard.
As I leave the Quarters I unlock the bolt of my M-14, the sound of it signaling the relief commander to start the ceremony. He walks out to the Tomb and salutes, then faces the spectators and asks them to stand and stay silent during the ceremony.
He approaches me and conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of my weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. We then turn and meet the retiring Sentinel at the center of the matted path in front of the Tomb, all three of us saluting the Unknowns.
The commander orders the relieved Sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current Sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” I reply, “Orders acknowledged” and step into position on the black mat.
I march 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turn east for 21 seconds, turn north for 21 seconds and then take 21 steps down the mat to repeat the process. After each turn I execute a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors to signify that I stand between the Tomb and any possible threat. I take 21 steps and pause for 21 seconds because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed, the 21 gun salute.
I will be on the walk for one hour before I am relieved in another Changing of the Guard ceremony, only to return to the walk three hours later, repeating the process for the next 24 hours.
As I turn east and count for 21 seconds before turning north, I can hear a live 21 gun salute followed by the sound of Taps playing in the distance and know that another fellow soldier is being laid to rest. As I make my way back down the mat I offer a silent prayer in his or her honor.
I jumped all three times as the 7 rifles were shot, clutching the folded flag in my arms. I stood amongst his army brethren with tears streaming down my face as my brother’s body was lowered into the ground. The sound of Taps started to play and I fell to my knees beside his grave overcome with grief.
Jason had enlisted in the army after 9-11. He loved our country and was proud to defend her and our freedom. I was always worried about him, but he assured me that he was doing what he felt to be right and if he did die defending our country to not be sad, but to be proud for there was no more noble act.
Last week, as I was washing dishes in the farmhouse we grew up in, I watched an unfamiliar car coming up the long gravel driveway. Drying my hands as I went, I pulled open the front door and stepped out onto the porch. Two men in army uniforms got out of the front of the car with somber looks on their faces and my breath hitched in my throat. I felt knots form in my stomach and when the priest from our parish church got out of the back seat I collapsed to the floor screaming, “NOOOO!”
Jason had been out on patrol somewhere in Afghanistan when a truck in his convoy detonated a roadside bomb. The rest of the vehicles were hit with a barrage of gunfire from enemy militants hiding behind a natural rock formation. Jason’s unit took up a position across from them using the vehicles as a shield from the gunfire. The enemy had the upper hand because they were in a higher position allowing them to pick off the soldiers that strayed too far from their cover.
Growing up, Jason had always been a fast runner. He had won every track tournament he’d ever participated in all through high school, and if the football was thrown to him during the game it was a guaranteed touchdown. No one could catch him.
Seeing members of his unit dropping around him with bullet wounds propelled Jason into action. After pulling them to safety he ran the length of the convoy of trucks, sprinting in between two of them to come up on the side of the rock formation. He made his way higher before throwing a hand grenade into a large basin-like enclosure that held the majority of the enemy fighters giving his fellow soldiers time to scramble into better positions. He then ran forward picking off as many of the enemy fighters as he could before he was shot by a sniper that had been farther down the line.
They had flown Jason to the nearest medical center, but he died during surgery as they were trying to remove the bullet from his chest. They said he alone saved the majority of his unit from certain death and he was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his actions that day.
Jason had been the only family I had left. The rest of our family had passed on and were in the Sweet Home Cemetery in a field next to the farmhouse. The plots were all full, so I chose to have Jason buried in Arlington National Cemetery. I wanted others to know my brother’s name and what he died for. I knew there, he would be honored every day. It was far away from our Louisiana home but I promised I would visit him four times a year. I would come during the last week of March for the anniversary of his death and stay until April 1st, the day he was buried. I would return in July for my birthday, and again in October for his, and lastly at Christmas because those are the occasions you want to spend with family.
After receiving condolences and well wishes from the small crowd I decided to walk for a bit to clear my mind as best I could. I wandered all over the cemetery for hours, reading the different names on the headstones as I walked, the folded flag still clutched to my chest. The air was fragrant with the hundreds of cherry blossom trees in full bloom scattered everywhere and spring bulbs erupted from the ground bringing color and life to a place that was so full of grief.
I eventually came upon the plaza where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier stood. I walked down the steps to the railing in front of the Tomb and sat watching the soldier pacing back and forth on the black mat. I found his rhythmic walk, with his pauses and turns to be very soothing and hypnotic. I could hear a clicking noise whenever his feet came together and while watching him I let my mind wander to every memory I had of Jason and I growing up. I felt the tears start to fall again and I let them, hoping they would take some of my unbearable grief with them.
It was during my second walk of my first day that I saw her. She sat on the bottom step in a black dress with her blond hair falling over her shoulders. She slowly rocked herself back and forth, clutching a folded flag to her chest, as tears fell down her face. I wondered if it was her loved one that had received the 21 gun salute I had heard earlier that day.
I remained focused on my walk, but caught glimpses of her in my peripheral view as I made my turns. Seeing her so overcome with grief had me wanting to pull her into my arms and whisper soothing words into her ear.
When I was relieved of my walk at the Changing of the Guard ceremony I looked more closely at her as I left for the Quarters. She was sitting alone just staring at the Sentinel while stray tears made their way down her face. I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful she was, even while she was in such despair.
After changing out of my uniform into civilian clothes, I pressed it once more making it perfect for my next walk 3 hours later. I headed out to get something to eat and made a last minute decision to grab some tissues in case she was still there.
I made my way back to the Tomb and saw her in the same spot as before. I approached her slowly and sat down next to her on the step. She was still lost in her reverie but as I held out my hand full of tissues, the movement attracted her attention. Staring at my hand for a moment, she reached out and took them from me.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
I sat there for another moment before saying, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
She just nodded before her breath hitched in her throat as she tried to quell the next round of tears. I ended up just sitting with her in silence before I had to head back down to get ready for my next walk. Standing up, I reached over and gave her shoulder a light squeeze of support, and made my way back to the Quarters.
By the time I came back up in uniform for my next walk she was gone.
As I headed out to the cemetery to visit Jason on my birthday I couldn’t help but recall the stranger that had sat with me on the steps the day of the funeral. I had been feeling utterly alone in the world coming to terms with the fact I had no family left. I had friends, but it wasn’t the same. When he sat down next to me in silence, his presence alone filled some of the void I’d been feeling. He seemed to understand what I was going through and just offered me comfort by not letting me be alone. I would always be grateful to him.
I placed fresh flowers on Jason’s grave and sat there most of the morning talking to him, telling him everything he’d missed. I cried a few times, but it wasn’t as bad as before. I eventually got up and walked around reading more headstones before I found myself back at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I sat down where I’d been the first time I was here, watching the soldier’s movements. I leaned back on my hands and closed my eyes to the sun, listening to his steps and movements while remembering happy times with Jason.
I was lost in my memories when I heard the sound of someone sitting down next to me. Opening my eyes, I looked over to see the stranger from before. A look of recognition on his face told me he seemed to remember me as well.
Smiling at him I said, “Thank you for sitting with me that day. I should have thanked you then, but you have no idea how much comfort you gave me by just sitting with me and for that I will always be grateful to you.” My eyes were filled with tears as I spoke, but I did my best to not let them fall.
He smiled back before asking, “Do you mind if I ask who it was you’re grieving for?”
I went on to tell him about Jason and it felt good to talk to someone about him. My friends at home avoided talking about him at all, I assumed to not upset me, but I felt talking about him would help keep a part of him alive even if only in my memories.
After talking non-stop for what felt like hours I asked him if he was here to visit someone as well. That’s when he told me he was one of the Sentinels of the Tomb. The way he spoke of his duty and the honor he felt being a Sentinel was very inspiring. You could feel his love of country in every word he spoke and I felt even better knowing there was someone like him here to watch over Jason as well. I learned his name was Eric Northman and he was a staff sergeant. He had been in the army for 12 years and was officially stationed at Fort Myers but had been all over the world, including serving two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan before coming here.
I felt my stomach growl and realized I hadn’t eaten anything that day. Turning to him I said, “I’m sorry for keeping you here for so long. ” Glancing at my watch I saw it was already after 5 o’clock.
He looked at his watch as well before asking, “Could I take you to dinner? I only came by to prep my uniform for tomorrow, so I have the evening free.”
“That would be nice. I’d love to.”
He followed me in his car back to my hotel where I left my rental and got into his. Our conversation flowed easily during the drive to the restaurant and all through dinner. I felt like I had known him for years.
I also couldn’t help but notice how handsome he was. He had to be at least 6′ 4″ with blond hair and blue eyes. His shoulders were broad, his frame was lean and he carried himself with confidence, but not in a cocky way. He was sure of whom he was inside and it showed on the outside.
As he told me about his life in the army I caught myself staring at his mouth, and the way it moved as he spoke. His lips were full and looked soft, his teeth gleaming white and perfectly straight and he had a lopsided grin that could make your heart stop. His jaw was squared and his cheekbones were defined giving him a strong profile when he turned his head. His eyes are what caught my attention the most. They were cerulean blue with lines at the edges that crinkled when he smiled.
I was too busy staring to register what he had been saying when the lopsided grin came back to his face. “Sookie?”
Blushing once I realized I had no idea what he was talking about I said, “I’m sorry. I guess I drifted there for a minute. What were you saying?”
I was sure he knew what I had been “drifting” about when he grinned wider saying, “I asked how long you would be in town for.”
I felt my face fall when I answered, “I’m flying out tomorrow morning.”
His grin disappeared too. I quickly followed up with, “But I’ll be back in October and again at Christmas.”
Smiling again he said, “I’d like to see you again when you come back. Do you think we could maybe keep in touch while you’re gone?”
“I’d like that very much.” We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses before leaving the restaurant. When we pulled up in front of my hotel we sat looking at each other and for the first time that day neither one of us had anything to say.
We each leaned toward the other simultaneously and when our lips met I could’ve sworn sparks flew. His kiss was soft and tender and he tasted like heaven. Pulling back like the perfect gentleman he said, “I had a really good time with you today. I’m glad you came back.”
I could feel my heart beating in my chest like a hummingbird’s wings. “Me too, thank you for today, for everything.”
He gave me one more chaste kiss on the lips before I got out of the car and floated back up to my room high on Eric Northman’s kisses.
Over the next 3 months we talked or emailed each other every day. I told him all about my childhood and how our Gran had raised Jason and I after our parents died. I learned he had been born in Sweden and his mother was American so he had dual citizenship. They moved to the States when he was seven and his younger sister, Pam, was four after his parents divorced. He fell in love with America instantly and that was why he joined the army straight out of high school.
Eric had come to fill a void in my life. I felt we had become very close during that time even though we hadn’t seen each other, but neither one of us brought up what “we” were, or if there even was a “we”, but each of us had made it perfectly clear that neither of us were seeing anyone else.
The day finally arrived that I was going back to Virginia and I was very excited. I knew Eric would be working today, but I was going to head over there after I checked in at the hotel and we were going to get a quick dinner in between his “walks”. After today he had the next 96 hours off so he planned to take me sightseeing around Washington D.C.
I parked at the cemetery and went over to Jason’s grave, again laying down fresh flowers. After wishing him a Happy Birthday and remembering birthdays past, I made my way over to the Tomb.
Walking down the steps, I took my customary seat and watched what was before me. Eric was wearing his army dress blues. His pants were royal blue with a gold band running down the outer seam over shiny black dress shoes. He wore a white collared dress shirt with a black tie under a dark blue coat secured with gold buttons down the center and a ceremonial light blue belt with gold trim cinched at his waist. A light blue braided rope was attached at his right shoulder running under his arm and a blue rainbow shaped patch reading ‘Honor Guard’ on his left shoulder and a gold band around each sleeve at his wrists. Various medals adorned the left side of his chest and the Tomb Identification Badge on his right breast pocket which was a silver inverted open laurel wreath surrounding a representation of the front elevation of the tomb with the words ‘Honor Guard’ engraved at the base. He told me before they wear no rank on their uniforms so they don’t outrank the unknowns they guard. He wore his blue dress cap with a black bill and fitted sunglasses to deflect the reflection of the sun’s rays off of the Tomb. The white gloves he wore were wet to help him maintain his grip on his rifle.
How did I not notice this before? Granted, I had been very upset the first time I came here, and was barely aware of anything around me. And, the two times I had seen Eric he had been in his civilian clothes, but, my God. He was like a walking sex god in that uniform. My mind immediately took a nosedive into the gutter when I thought of how I liked how he handled his rifle and wondered what else he could do with it. I had to swallow the drool that was pooling in my mouth.
I kept my eyes glued to every movement he made. I couldn’t tell if he had seen me yet because of the sunglasses he was wearing, but I was certainly enjoying the view from where I was. The telltale sound of the unlocking of the M-14 rifle of Eric’s relieving Sentinel marked the top of the hour and the time I’d get to spend with Eric afterwards.
I was stunned, to say the least, when I came out from the Quarters that day in July and saw her there on the steps again. I had wondered what had happened to her and who she was. When I saw her sitting there with her eyes closed and her face turned towards the sun, she looked like an angel. I had to talk to her again.
Spending that entire day with Sookie was odd in the best of ways. I immediately felt comfortable around her and found myself babbling about my life with no qualms whatsoever. Normally I’m a private person and don’t offer much unsolicited information, but when I was with her it all came pouring out.
When I took her back to the hotel and kissed her I felt a charge run through my body. I had to keep myself from pulling her over the center console and into my arms to keep her there with me. I let myself have a consolation kiss from her before she got out of the car, but as I watched her walk away I felt somewhat better knowing she wanted to keep in touch and possibly get together again the next time she was in Virginia.
The next three months were both the longest of my life and yet they flew by whenever I talked to Sookie on the phone or read her emails. I told her things about my childhood as did she. The more I talked to her the more I wanted her in my life.
We hadn’t discussed what our relationship was, but neither one of us was seeing anyone else, so I held out hope she’d want to see me even if it had to be long distance for a while.
The day had finally arrived. She was flying in this morning and would be meeting me at the Tomb later on in the day so we could grab some dinner in between my walks.
I saw her in my peripheral vision as she came down the steps and sat in her normal spot. I couldn’t look over at her, but I caught glimpses here and there. After the Changing of the Guard ceremony I went down into the Quarters and changed into civilian clothes, sprinting back up to see her. She had walked to the top of the steps to wait for me and when she saw me her face lit up with a huge smile and she ran and jumped into my arms giving me a hug and kiss.
“You look great,” I murmured into her hair. Setting her down in front of me I could see the weight of the grief she’d held the last time I’d seen her had lifted. Her blue eyes sparkled and she looked happy. She was wearing khaki skirt that ended just below her knees with a cranberry v-neck top that clung to all of her curves.
“So do you,” she said as I watched a blush creep up from her chest to settle on her cheeks. I wondered what that was about but decided not to ask.
Grabbing onto her hand I led her to my car and we headed for the same restaurant I had taken her to the first time. We spent the entire time talking and laughing. I loved the way her whole face lit up when she laughed. All too soon it was time to go back so I could prep my uniform before the next Changing of the Guard ceremony. The cemetery was closed to the public after 5 from October until April so I had to leave Sookie in the parking lot.
Getting out, I walked her to her car and promised to call her the next day. My shift ended at 6 a.m. so I’d sleep for a few hours and come and pick her up around lunch time. As we stood next to her car I had the overwhelming urge to kiss her again, so I did. Leaning down, placing a hand on either side of her face, I pulled her lips to mine just brushing them lightly. Her tongue traced the contour of my lower lip and my hands slid down her arms to wrap around her waist, pulling her flush against my body. The sudden contact caused her to gasp and I took the opportunity to slide my tongue into her mouth, exploring everywhere I could.
Knowing I was already pushing the time I had to get back, I reluctantly pulled away and smiled when she whimpered as I did.
Giving her one last soft kiss I said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” I stood there and watched as she climbed into her car and as she drove away I felt a piece of myself going with her.
The next day when 6 a.m. came I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I had the next four days to spend with Sookie. I drove to my apartment outside of Arlington and carried in my uniforms so I could prep them at some point before I had to report back.
I lay in bed and tried to get some sleep, but I was too excited at the thought she was here so I jumped into the shower and called her by 9.
“Eric?” she asked excitedly, “How come you aren’t sleeping?”
Because I couldn’t stand the thought of being asleep with you so close. “I took a couple of naps in between walks, so I’m good. Is this too early? I didn’t wake you did I?”
“NO!” she shouted. “I mean, no, I was already awake. I’m excited to see our nation’s capitol.”
“Can I come by and pick you up now?” I caught my reflection in the window and saw I had a huge grin on my face.
“I’d like that. I’ll be downstairs waiting.”
We said our goodbyes and hung up and I practically ran to the car. She was standing on the curb in front of the hotel wearing a pair of dark wash low riding jeans and a blue cotton shirt that scooped down in the front showing the very tops of her breasts. I felt the stir in my pants immediately.
Getting out of the car, I walked around and gave her a kiss on the lips before opening the car door so she could get in.
The drive into Washington D.C. took less than 10 minutes, so I found a parking space and we got out to walk. The day flew by as we saw all of the different monuments, and took tours of the Capitol Building and the White House. We held hands the entire day and kissed a few times when an opportunity presented itself. She didn’t seem to be aware of just how sexy she was. She would lean into me, her breasts rubbing my arm or chest, and she would chew on her bottom lip when she was concentrating on something. I found myself reaching out to touch her whenever I could whether it was to brush a stray lock of her hair back into place, or pull her to me for an impromptu hug. I wanted her more than I’ve ever wanted anything.
As I drove her back to the hotel I found that I wasn’t ready to let her go yet. I parked my car and just sat there looking at her with our hands still clasped together. “I don’t want this day to end,” I admitted.
Her gaze dropped from mine and she blushed as she said, “It doesn’t have to.” Lifting her now hooded eyes back to mine she asked almost whispering the words, “Would you like to come up to my room?”
I wasn’t sure what she wanted to happen once we got there, but I decided to just let her take the lead.
I knew I liked Eric before I ever came back to Virginia, but after seeing him in that uniform and spending the entire day with him I wanted him like no other. Between the kisses and hugs all day mixed with me rubbing up on him whenever I could, it was like all day foreplay and my panties had been dampened the entire day.
When I invited him to my room I decided I was just going to go for it. I wasn’t sure where “we” stood, but I knew if it ended tomorrow I would always regret it if I hadn’t.
We held hands going into the hotel and up the elevator to my room but no words were said between us. After entering my room I turned to face him and pulled his lips to mine for a kiss. It started off very sweet and tender, each of us exploring the other. I held his face to mine with my hand resting on the back of his head while the other snaked around to his back. His hands had come to rest on my waist holding me to him and I could feel his growing erection against my stomach.
We stood there kissing for a while and his hands never strayed from my waist, but I wanted more. I pushed against his body with my own while maintaining our kiss until the back of his legs were flush with the bed. I leaned into him harder until he sat on the bed and I crawled up to straddle his lap as our kisses became more heated. He trailed his lips along my jaw to my ear which he grazed with his teeth, sucking the lobe into his mouth and giving it a soft bite while I rubbed my center against his erection, my hands touching every part of him that I could.
The temperature in the room seemed to have spiked up about 20 degrees so I reached down to the hem of my shirt, lifting it up and over my head exposing my dark blue lace bra. I watched his eyes darken with lust as he saw what I was wearing and his hands and mouth immediately began exploring the new territory before them.
His tongue traced along the edges of my bra while his hands caressed them, running his thumbs over each hardened nipple through the fabric before removing it all together with a flick of his fingers at my back. He lovingly kissed and caressed them giving each one ample attention with his mouth while I held his head to my chest and raked my nails up and down his back.
Needing more contact I pulled away from him long enough to pull his shirt over his head and pushed him to lie down. He positioned himself in the middle of the bed and I crawled on top of him kissing him once more. I pulled away, placing open mouth kisses along his jaw and across his neck. I licked my way from his collarbone down his smooth defined chest to one of his nipples. He gasped and held my head to his body as I swirled my tongue around one, sucking it into my mouth, while caressing the other with my fingertips.
I continued my path down his body with my tongue over his hardened abs to the button of his blue jeans. Crawling in between his parted legs I placed my hands on the insides of each of his knees and ran them up his inner thighs to his bulging erection, my hands meeting there to stroke him through his jeans. He hissed as my hands made contact and bucked his hips upwards with his eyes locked onto mine.
I unbuttoned his jeans while maintaining our gaze, but when I unzipped them and his cock sprang free I looked down and gasped. He was huge. I couldn’t take my eyes from it and found myself reaching out to touch it. I tried to wrap my hand around it at the base, but my fingers barely touched. I stroked him up and down completely mesmerized before leaning down to take what I could into my mouth. Eric groaned as soon as my lips made contact and I looked back at him to see him watching my every move. I continued to work his cock with both my hand and mouth and found maintaining eye contact with him while doing it to be a huge turn-on, especially when he moaned with his hands fisted into the sheets on each side.
I guess he was near his breaking point because he pulled me back to his lips and kissed me with all of the passion he had, turning our bodies so that I was now lying underneath him. He kissed and licked his way down my body, stopping once again at each breast, before making his way farther down. When he got to my center he kissed me through my jeans, breathing out hot air through the fabric. “Please…,” escaped my lips as I grabbed onto his head. He pulled off my jeans and growled when he saw the barely there matching blue lace thong I had on. He placed his lips on my inner right thigh and trailed his tongue up to where my leg joined my hip. From there he traced the top of my thong and back down to my left inner thigh, avoiding where I wanted him most. He retraced his way back up my thigh, but when he got to the top of my thong he finally trailed downward, kissing and licking me through the fabric. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore he pulled the ties at each side loose and away from my body while licking my clit with the gentlest of touches. I gasped and my whole body arched from the sudden direct contact it had been craving. Pushing my hips back down and holding them there he licked along my slit, growling again when he saw how wet I was for him. I felt the vibration of his growl run through my body down to my toes and I wantonly held his head in place while I pushed myself against his face.
He continued lapping up my juices before concentrating his tongue entirely on my clit, alternating between flicking it with his tongue and suckling it between his lips while he thrust two fingers inside of me. I felt my orgasm building to near epic proportions and when he hooked his fingers and hit my g-spot I came around his fingers screaming, “ERIC!”
He drew out my orgasm, continuing his ministrations until I felt another one building. I watched as he kicked his jeans off before sitting up and rolling a condom on. Bracing on his arms while hovering over me he leaned down to kiss me while pushing just the tip of his cock into me. He continued to kiss me while pushing into me more and more, allowing me to adjust to his size, until he was finally fully sheathed within me. We both moaned in pleasure. I wrapped my legs around him and he began to thrust into me, kissing me along my neck and jaw and then back to my lips. I matched him thrust for thrust and as they became faster and more frantic I could feel him swelling even larger with his impending release. He snaked his hand between us and began rubbing my clit in circles fast and hard and I came screaming again, my own triggering his and I felt his release as he screamed my name with my walls spasming around him.
We lay there for a while, our breaths panting and our heartbeats racing, while just staring into each other’s eyes. As I lay there looking at him I finally admitted to myself that I was falling in love with him. I knew it started three months ago when our long distance friendship began. I found myself wanting to be with him all of the time and the thought of not seeing him again didn’t sit well. I could only hope he felt the same.
My heart swelled when he looked into my eyes and whispered, “I love you.”
Eric and I continued our long distance relationship and I flew back to Virginia to spend Christmas with him, while he came home with me for two weeks on New Years Eve. When I returned to Virginia the following spring he proposed to me on the steps in front of the Tomb where we had first met. We had a small ceremony at the post chapel that summer with him wearing his dress uniform, and I moved to Virginia but kept the farmhouse for when he retired from the army. Our son Jason was born the following year. I had a family again.