Title: "Veteran's Day"
Title: “Veteran’s Day”
Disclaimer: I do not own “Band of Brothers,” the miniseries. Nor do I have any rights to the men themselves, as they were and are real people, and ones for whom I have great admiration. Although inspired by some real events, the story itself is pure fiction. No offense is intended, and I fervently hope none is taken. I am not making any money off of this, so please do not sue.
Summary: About thirty years after the war, a former member of Easy Company has a visitor on Veteran’s Day. Warning: some angst.
“You have a visitor!” the pretty young nurse said cheerily.
The man in the wheelchair slowly raised his head. He was quite startled by the nurse’s remark, but he had no choice but to move slowly, as his permanent wounds made it impossible for him to react with speed. He nodded thoughtfully, trying not to reveal his surprise, as other than his sister he never had any visitors, and it was not her day to come. The hand that was not discommoded by an IV fiddled a bit, uselessly, with the lap rug. “Really,” he managed. “Who—who is it?”
“He said the two of you were in the Army together.”
“Is that so?” the patient said, pleased. He was not a man who made friends easily; the closest he had ever come had been some of the men he knew when he was in Easy Company during the war. “Well, I better see him, then. Show him in.”
“Don’t you want to come on out to the visitors’ area and see him?” the nurse coaxed. She was young and soft-hearted, and privately she felt sorry for this man, who was badly maimed, not very popular with the other residents of the veterans’ hospital, and never had anyone to remember him, other than his sister. This patient so seldom left his room; a little sunshine and companionship would surely do him good. “It’s a beautiful day, with sunlight just beaming through the plate-glass window.”
The patient looked away for a moment. The nurse knew he was self-conscious about his wounded appearance. But then he looked back at her and almost smiled. “All right.”
The nurse bustled forward quickly, not giving him time to reconsider, and soon she was pushing her patient’s wheelchair down the hall. He fidgeted a bit. “Why has he come now? It’s been a lot of years since the war.”
“He didn’t say, but I imagine he’s come because it’s Veteran’s Day,” the young woman responded briskly. “Anyway, does it matter? It’s always nice to see an old friend, isn’t it?”
“Yes, I suppose.” The man was silent for another moment. They were almost at the visitors’ room when he asked; “You didn’t answer my question before. Who is he? What’s his name?”
“Oh, something seasonal. Winters—that’s it.”
The nurse almost lost her grip on the IV as her patient applied the hand brake on his wheelchair. He turned as best he could to glare at her. “Winters?!” he almost shouted. “Major Dick Winters?!”
“Well, he wasn’t in uniform,” the nurse said, flustered, “but he said his name was Dick Winters, yes.”
“I don’t want to see him! Not like this! Take me back to my room!”
“But why?” she asked, bewildered. “A moment ago, you—”
“Take me back to my room, or I’ll do it myself!” He was shouting now; other patients and staff members were beginning to stare. “I don’t want to see him, understand? Not now, not ever!”
“Yes sir,” the young nurse said, chagrined. Having no real choice, she took her patient back to his room.
A few minutes later, she went back to the visitors’ room, alone. The tall man who had come to visit her patient stood politely as she entered. Although old enough to be her father, he was also very attractive, with broad shoulders, thoughtful, steady blue eyes, and red hair that was just beginning to turn white at the temples. She apologized, “I’m sorry, Mr. Winters. Captain Sobel refuses to see you.”
She had thought this man would ask for an explanation, but he merely nodded. “I wasn’t sure that he would.”
“I just…” Suddenly, the nurse was near tears. Winters noticed it at once, and with native kindness touched her arm lightly, gently, and escorted the young woman to a seat. He produced a soft linen handkerchief, and she accepted it gratefully, using it to wipe her eyes. “I just don’t understand!” she cried. “He never gets visitors—I thought he would be so happy to have one. He was glad, at first, when I told him it was someone he’d served with in the army. I believe his days in the army were the happiest of his whole life. That’s why we all call him by his former rank, you know—Captain Sobel—even though he hasn’t been in the military in years. It seems to cheer him up.” She wept for a moment and then applied the handkerchief again. Winters touched her shoulder, gently and supportively. She sniffed and looked up into his steady blue eyes. This man had a way of being comforting without saying a word. Impulsively she asked, “Did you really serve together?”
“We…did our airborne training together. Then we went our separate ways. I don’t believe life turned out quite the way Captain Sobel expected it.”
“He called you ‘Major Winters.’ Were you his commanding officer?”
The nurse waited, but clearly Winters did not intend to say any more. She blew her nose, then wiped her eyes again. “I’m sure you’re right. Captain Sobel wouldn’t have attempted suicide, if his life had been going the way he wanted it to. His wounds are self-inflicted, did you know that?”
“Yes, I heard as much,” the red-haired man said quietly.
“Well.” There did not seem to be anything more to say, particularly as this Major Winters did not seem inclined to fill her in any more on her patient’s past. She managed a tremulous smile. “Thank you, Major Winters, for the handkerchief. I’m sorry I got it so soggy.” She tried to give it back to him, but he shook his head, indicating that she should keep it. The nurse rose to her feet, and he stood up also.
“Don’t apologize.” He gave her a surprisingly sweet smile. “I’m glad that Herbert Sobel has someone who cares about him. But if he won’t see me, I think I should go.”
Impulsively, she extended her hand to him. “Thank you, Major Winters, for your kindness in coming to visit him.”
He blinked in momentary surprise, but he took her hand courteously. Her small palm fit neatly into his, and as he shook her hand, she had the impression of considerable strength tempered by gentleness. Then he turned away and continued on out through the hospital doors. The nurse watched until he was out of her sight.
As Winters exited the veterans’ hospital, a dark-haired man who was smoking a cigarette on the outside steps glanced over at him. “No dice, huh, Dick?”
“No. He wouldn’t see me.”
“Figured as much.” Lewis Nixon dropped the butt of the cigarette to the ground and stepped on it. “You know, Dick, when you finally took me up on my offer to show you Chicago, I didn’t expect this to be a part of it. Why would you want to visit Sobel, of all people?”
Winters sighed. “Because I hate the thought of anyone, even Sobel, being so miserable that suicide seemed like a good idea.”
Nixon shook his head. “Only you, my friend,” he said, and rested his hand on Dick’s shoulder. He smiled as his best friend glanced at him quizzically. “C’mon, let’s head on back to the hotel. By the time we get there, Grace and Ethel should be finished shopping. We can take them to lunch.”
He clapped Dick on the back, and was rewarded with one of his friend’s rare broad smiles. The two men walked off together, to resume their happy lives.
Characters: Winters, Sobel, Nixon, OC
Disclaimers: This story is a bit angsty, but nothing too depressing. I do not own "Band of Brothers."
Summary: About thirty years after the War, a former member of Easy Company has a visitor on Veteran's Day.