The cool breeze whipped through the crowd. It was definitely Autumn. Evans wanted to shiver and wrap his arms around himself, but, there were a lot of people out there. Staring right towards the stage. So he had to stand, unmoving, and stare right back at the crowd. General Richardson was off to the right, slowly going over the long list of soldiers in the brigade that had ‘Joined the Glorious Dead.’ After that, the list of missing, which mostly meant those who were ripped apart by artillery shells. Then would come the confirming of officer’s promotions. Finally, after that, the awards for gallantry, starting with the Fourth Classes.
Evans scanned the crowd without moving his eyes too noticeably. He could easily find his company, standing at parade rest near the rear, with their colors flapping in the breeze. Then he looked through the crowd gathered in front of the regiments. They were seated. They were the special guests. Family of those being promoted or being awarded with a medal. Up front were the officers families. The most important and most presentable. Farther back would be his family. His parents, and his wife, Anna. After a few minutes of searching, he found them. Anna and his mother were both wearing mauve dresses. It was Anna’s favorite color, and she had gotten Evans’ mother a dress of that color when Anna found out that Evans’ mother hadn’t seen the color before. Evans’ father was wearing a suit with a mauve tie he had purchased to match the two women.
It was weird to think of the army at this level. Evans was used to thinking about his platoon. Maybe his company, and he occasionally interacted with Battalion. Once or twice he had met Colonel Darling, the commanding officer of his regiment. Now there was another regiment standing beside his. And above his brigade was a division, and that was still just a small part of the whole army. Evans tried to do the math and figure out how many soldiers were in the army, but gave up when the numbers were to big. Math had never been his strong suit.
Why couldn’t the soldiers gathered for the awards be off stage, or at least at parade rest like the rest of the brigade. Almost on cue, Evans heard a thud as someone collapsed. Rookie mistake. The General ignored the event and kept on talking.
Time seemed to come to a standstill. The list seemed to go on forever. When the officer promotions came, Evans knew the home stretch was near. He had been instructed that, once the General pinned the medal to his chest, he would salute, left face, and walk off of the stage, and the ceremony would be over for him. Evans was glad that his name started with an ‘E,’ so that was early in the alphabet.
Then mercifully, after what seemed like years, “Lance Corporal James Evans is receiving the Medal of Ethslin Fourth Class. His citation, by Lieutenant Jane Ricci reads: In the evening of 6 September, Private Evans provided fire and quick transportation for me when I was under attack from a Vledscan infantry unit. After our retreat, we were still well behind enemy lines. The following day, we encountered another member of Evans’ regiment, where, with no regard for personal safety, Evans rescued the soldier in a display of fortitude. That night, we hatched a plan to sneak across the border into Ethslin held territory. Partway through, we encountered enemy marksman, who shot both myself, and the other soldier. Evans quickly took care of the issue, and acquired transportation for us in the form of an abandoned truck. We eventually came to a roadblock, which, with the assistance of some rifle grenades, Evans assaulted and crashed through. He then delivered myself, and the other soldier to medical personnel. Because of his bravery, I was able to bring back an important intelligence report to my superiors.”
The General cleared his throat, “So, it is with my pleasure that I announce Lance Corporal James Evans.”
Evans stepped forward, out of the line, did a right face, and marched the walk toward the General. He heard Anna yelling over the polite clapping, “WOOO! GO JAMES!”
He halted in front of the General, right faced, and saluted. The General returned the salute and started pinning the medal onto Evans, “Nice work Lad. From what Miss Ricci said in person to me, it sounds like I will see you up here for at least a Second Class soon enough.” He stepped back. Evans saluted and the General returned the salute, “Now go see that wife of yours, sex after a MOE is magnificent.”
Evans did a left face and walked off the stage. A bit confused as to what just happened. He walked over to one of the benches that was open for the soldiers being awarded and sat down. A few minutes later, a strong looking Sergeant walked up to him, “Is this seat taken?”
The Sergeant sat down, “I’m Perry McGlothlin, B Company of the 202nd. Which one are you?”
“Lance Corporal Evans. Fox of the 202nd.”
“Ah, that was an exciting story to hear. This your first MOE?”
Evans nodded, “Yes Sergeant. How about you?”
“No,” He gestured to his ribbons and the medal around his neck “One third class and a second. My first fourth though.”
“Wow…” Evans shook his head, “So, the General-”
“How does he know so much about you?” Sergeant McGlothlin interrupted, “He reads the files on every soldier awarded an MOE. Don’t be surprised if during a Brigade inspection he asks you about your hometown. It’s impressive really. He knows the name of my wife and our two kids. It does help that I’ve been serving under him since he was a Major eight years ago.”
“Really, eight years and he’s already a General?”
The Sergeant nodded, “He’s going to be running this army someday. Plus, scaling the army up really helped get people their promotions. I was a fresh Corporal when the war started, and now I’m the senior Sergeant in my Company.”
The two talked for a while, until the General finished presenting the awards. The door was then opened and they were allowed to leave. Evans shook the Sergeants hand and ran out to greet his family. One last night of freedom before going back to war.