(June 24, 2011)
The maroon and black Sikorsky S-76C medium lift helicopter cruised at 120 knots five thousand feet above the ground. I didn't want to go any faster.
In the passenger 만, 베이 rode a contingent of 늑대 and a pair of humans.
The 늑대 were Sweets, Candy, Lilly, Humphrey, Garth, Eve, Winston, and Tony. The humans were Brandon and Rich. Scar rode shotgun with me up in the cockpit.
I was dressed in my dress uniform. It was the first time I had worn it since the 일 I crashed my F-22.
The reason for my wearing this was that I was attending the services of my deceased friend Jon.
The extent of my knowledge on the was that he had died in an incident involving a ravine and saving Kate from something. But now he was dead. Fortunately, Kate was okay, just very upset and depressed.
I sensed a presence behind me and turned to see Rich standing there. Of average height and build with brown hair that was almost black and hazel eyes, he motioned as if to ask if he could come in.
I nodded. He sat down in the crew chief's position, which was an option on this particular model of Sikorsky helicopter.
Rich seemed pretty interested in the workings of the chopper, so I explained what the controls were and how they worked.
I knew he was lying out his 나귀, 엉덩이 about the helicopter, but I couldn't blame him. I didn't want to think about what was waiting for us when we landed at Jon's 집 either.
"So..." he said.
"This is so damn depressing!" I said hotly. "One of my best 프렌즈 is dead, and here we are flying to his funeral! I wish that we could just turn tail and go home, 안전한, 안전 with the knowledge that he was alive and well, but we can't cause he's not."
Rich laid his hand on my shoulder in an attempt to calm me. It worked.
I slumped in the seat, suddenly bone tired. I hit the autopilot master switch and undid my belt. Scar noticed and jumped into my lap. I smiled.
She nuzzled my cheek, which made my mood lift a little.
I stood up, still holding my Scar and went into the passenger cabin. I got a few tail wags and a head nod from Brandon.
I sat down amongst the 늑대 and settled in. In a few minutes, I was fast asleep.
After another 4 and a half hours, I finally started my descent into Lewistown, Montana. The landing gear unfolded and the Sikorsky gently touched down on the lawn outside Jon's home. The downwash of the rotors whirled the limbs and leaves into a frenzy.
Paul, Jon's father, came out of the house and looked at the helicopter. I waved at him to hold off and shut down the engines. The rotors spun slowly to a stop.
I grabbed my M14 with its specially made magazine, and stopped in the passenger 선실, 캐빈 to say a few words before we exited.
To the wolves, I said, "Guys, I'm not sure if 당신 know what a funeral is, and it's kind of hard to explain concisely, but it's a sad occasion. So no barking, no wrestling, and no screwing around, okay? We're here to honor a fallen friend, and he deserves the utmost respect. As does Kate, who is as a sister to me."
To Rich and Brandon, I said but this, "Shall we?"
They both nodded.
I opened the helicopter's door and stepped down. Cradling the M14 소총 against my left shoulder, I went to Jon's father and saluted smartly. He returned the salute and said, "At ease."
I relaxed. "My sincerest condolences for the loss of your son," I said, shaking his hand.
"Thank you," he said gratefully.
I turned and waved to the group in the helicopter. They dismounted the chopper and came over. Brandon and Rich both shook Paul's hand and the 늑대 dipped their heads respectfully.
"In respect to his wishes, he was cremated," Paul told us as he invited us into the house. "He wanted his remains scattered at the Confluence of 로스트 Fork."
"With your permission, sir, I have a few military honors that I would like to bestow on Jon."
He spoke softly. "It matters not what 당신 give him, Colby. What matters to me is that 당신 are here for him." Paul had tears in his eyes and he embraced me and broke down.
Feeling his weight on my shoulders, I led him to the 침상, 소파 and we both sat down.
After a few minutes, he regained his composure and straightened up, wiping his eyes.
"Alright," he said haltingly. "Everyone ready?"
Aside from Kate, everyone gave the okay.
"Not really, but let's do it," she said sadly. Her ears were drawn back and her tail was limp, a sure sign for any 늑대 that something was wrong.
"Kate?" I said, crouching down beside her.
Her usually bright, vivid eyes were a little dim, as if she were sick. I put my hand on her shoulder. Her thick luscious 모피 was a little duller than it had been last time I saw her, plus, it was coarse and brittle.
"Kate, are 당신 okay?" I asked gently. She looked away and I saw something drop from her cheek.
I took off my 장갑 and turned her head to face me.
"Kate," I began. "I know 당신 loved and still 사랑 Jon. He was as a brother to me. His vibrant personality gave life to each day. But I know he would hate to see 당신 so down and gloomy. 당신 know what he would say if he were here?"
She wiped her nose and asked, "What?"
"He'd say 'Kate, I 사랑 you, but cheer up! You'll always have me in your heart, and isn't that what matters?"
She looked up at me and smiled slightly. A little of the color came back into her eyes.
"Thanks, Colby," she said, hugging me.
I stood up and we all went out into the yard. Kate, Paul, Buddy, and Stormy all settled into a dark green Ford Bronco with no top. The yellow one that was Jon's sat in the driveway, alone and unused.
Everyone else piled back into the Sikorsky, and I told Paul that I would follow from the air. He gave me the okay and drove off.
I followed the grim vehicle from a hundred yards back and fifty above. The mood in the helicopter was grim.
The Bronco stopped in a clearing with a picnic 표, 테이블 and a 불, 화재 pit, but it was too small for the bird. From the air, I saw the four of them get out of the truck. I could tell that Kate was staring at Buddy, who was hiding from her behind Paul.
Paul led the way through the forest to a small creek, where they paused momentarily. I could see the silver canister that held Jon in his arms as he waded through the presumably cold water. Kate followed.
I landed the helicopter in a clearing just big enough for it and shut it down.
We all joined up at the other side of the creek. Paul had opened the container and apparently showed Kate, who was sitting there crying. I felt myself tear up a little, but held it back.
"You see that trail over there?" Paul said. We all looked.
"That is the 로스트 Fork Trail. It was the only one that Jon could never tackle on his dirt bike 또는 in a four 의해 four. He became obsessed with the place a few summers 이전 and spent days trying to ride that trail. Then one 일 he came up to me and said that it was his 가장 좋아하는 place in the world, so I thought this would be the ideal place to scatter his remains."
We watched Jon's father spread some of his ashes over the ground and gently pour the rest into the crystal clear waters of the slow moving creek. The water swept them away.
Paul got on his knees and buried his hands in the icy cold water. "I 사랑 당신 son!" he wailed.
Kate was the first to go. She sat down, pointed her nose at the sky, and let out a mournful, tear-jerking howl. A few 초 later, Scar joined in, followed swiftly 의해 Humphrey, Garth, and everyone else.
Seeing this as the best time, I pulled the stock of the M14 to my shoulder, aimed it skyward, racked a round into the chamber, and pulled the trigger. The thunder of the shot echoed through the trees. I pulled the trigger again. The ejected shell casing, bright brass, sailed through the air.
I did this nineteen 더 많이 times. When I was done, the magazine was empty and there was a small pile of brass casings on the ground at my feet. I stood there and saluted.
Ten 초 later, I faintly heard the telltale roar of jet engines. Everyone else heard it, even over the requiem howl from the 늑대 and looked up. A quartet of F-22 Raptors flew overhead in the missing man formation. (A.N. The Missing man formation is one in which the planes fly in a four finger formation, but the one in the lead pulls up and climbs over the flyover area.)
The roar of the engines filled the air as Paul, tears streaking down his face, looked longingly at the planes.
I stooped down and scooped up the shell casings. I had brought a little jar for them and now I put them in it. I gave the jar to Paul, who accepted it sadly.
The ride back to the house was somber. Kate joined us in the air this time, being unable to stand staying in the same vehicle as Buddy. Apparently, he had mouthed off about Jon and to prevent herself from killing him, Kate joined us.
Back at the house, I separated Paul from the group and spoke softly.
"Paul, I mean no disrespect when I say this, but do 당신 think Kate would be happy here?"
He looked over at her and shook his head.
"No, I doubt she would. There's too much of Jon here to reminder of what she lost. Of what we all lost. Why do 당신 ask?"
"I would like her to live with Scar and myself."
He looked at her again, then back at me.
"I'm hesitant to do that, because she was Jon's whole world. He loved her like nothing else. But that might be a good idea."
I nodded. "Thank you, sir."
We went over to Kate and laid out the plan. She agreed to it, but wanted to take one last look at the place before we left. She invited Scar and Lilly with her to show them the house, specifically, Jon's room.
When they got back, I had the helicopter started and idling.
A few 분 after 5 o'clock in the afternoon, the S-76C lifted off and started for Kettle Falls, with a new passenger in tow.