Allen Matthews still couldn’t get the sound of the
explosion out of his head. Even after a month of trying to recover in the
infirmary, he could still see his comrade's eyes as they lost their sheen,
lost the gleam that gave them life. Michael Hannam’s voice still rang in
his ears as he spoke his final words to his partner, his comrade, and more
importantly, his friend.
“Semper fi…Semper fi.”
Tears rolled down Allen’s face, his mouth forming the
words as he heard them.
“Semper fi…Semper fi,” Allen said.
Always faithful, as the Romans said, Allen continued to
repeat his motto. He had always wondered why the corp. had chosen that
saying, Semper Fidelus, as their motto. Now after seeing the heat of the
battle, the torment of the war, and the damage of the battlefield, he
knew. He knew that even after the battle, even after all the blood and
gore witnessed on the battlefield, he knew he would always be faithful to
his country. This had taken Allen much time reasoning and pondering to
However, no matter what else he thinks about, he will always
remember how Michael died that day in Korea.
It all started like a typical day. Michael and Allen
woke up in the barracks, went and ate breakfast, when they heard that the
Korean army was advancing toward their base.
As they got ready, Michael pulled out his photo of his wife, Michele. He
stared at her face lovingly. He was going to go home to her in a week.
After a few minutes, he put the picture inside his vest and continued to
In a matter of hours, the Koreans had reached the
battlefield. The two armies stood still for several seconds, sizing up
their opponents. Fingers were twitching on the triggers of their guns,
itching to get this battle over with. New recruits silently perspired,
praying mutely to ensure their survival. Everyone was waiting for another
to make the first move, to dare start a battle. Finally, the first shots
of the battle cracked through the silent sky. The soldiers on both sides
gave a brief jolt as their senses were awakened. Many more shots echoed
after the first, making it seemingly impossible to decipher any other
sounds. Eventually, the shouts of those wounded added their sounds to the
mix. Allen and Michael lost each other in the heat of the battle,
traversing to different ends of the battlefield, looking for enemies to
vanquish, their faces damp from the torrential downpour.
After what had seemed like hours, Allen was retreating
back to their base, looking to get some more artillery, his suit muddy
from the action. As he neared the base, he saw Michael running towards
there, as well. They arrived at the base together, their eyes meeting
briefly. Allen grabbed an armful of grenades and handed some to Michael.
Allen was throwing a couple of grenades into the middle of the struggle,
when it happened.
Allen screamed as the explosion shot shrapnel into his
calf muscle, tearing the muscle viciously. As he fell to the earth, he saw
Michael in a muddy heap on the ground, his body mangled from the
explosion. Allen swiftly crawled over to his friend, and grasped his hand
firmly, trying to hold onto his friend’s life as well. Michael had been
destroyed; his legs were broken and cut open, pouring out blood onto the
battlefield, mixing ruby red with the muddy brown. However, he was still
holding on; Allen could see it in his eyes. Michael had not yet given up
on life. His efforts went in vain, as, little by little, his eyes lost
their shine. Looking his friend in the eye, Michael used his dying breath
to utter his final words: “Semper fi…Semper fi.” Seconds later, Michael’s
hand went limp, like a wet tree after a gust of wind, and lying next to
him was the picture of his wife, quickly dampening in the rain.
Allen came rushing back to the present, tears dampening
his clothes. It turns out that the grenade he handed Michael had already
been activated, and it went off before he could throw it. The explosion
had driven Allen close to insanity ever since.
His face, perpetually moist ever since the cruel
battle, hardened as he realized how harsh fate could be. Michael, who
never hurt or offended anyone, never did drugs, did no wrong, and was
going home to his loving wife, was the one who was taken. It could have
easily been Allen who had picked the grenade, and Michael in the hospital
bed, their roles reversed.
But Allen soon realized that it had been Michael’s
time. One day, Allen would answer the call and death would speak to him.
Everyone and everything will one day come to an end, and it will be their
A couple of days after Michael’s death, the doctors took
Allen to see his friend’s body. Shocked at his friend’s frozen body, Allen
realized that he had never said any last words to his comrade. Sitting
there stone silent, Allen reached into his pocket, pulled out the picture
of Michele, and placed it in between Michael’s hands. Staring at his best
friend, he whispered his chosen words.
“Semper fi…Semper fi.”
And from that day forward, Allen always remained
faithful to Michael Hannam.