The sun was setting, the yellowish white stone wall of the church turning a darker shade of gray as the shadows overtook it. The only sounds were the fluttering wings of birds settling into the hedges for the night and the trickling of a spring-fed fountain, built into a retaining wall on a nearby farm. During the daylight, Chateau Thierry was just the picturesque French farming village, a true to life vision of a postcard. Now dusk, every living soul had retired for the duration, save one person walking up the hill.
Reaching the top of the hill, he advanced into the woods. Finding an indentation in the terrain, he sat. Gone were the tour groups, gone were the youngsters who were dragged to this spot by their grandparents. Even the cemetery caretaker had gone home. The man tilted his head around a tree. The time was nigh. He was ready.
No one was at the nearby graveyard that night, and that was probably just as well. The normally low-lying fog, barely high enough to cover the sea of white crosses, had started to drift with the breeze. Long streams of vapor started reaching the fingers of the hill, creeping up ever so surreptitiously. Filtering through the forest, the Bois de la Brigade de Marine, wisps of fog seemed to occupy every cranny on this sacred ground.
Though he had waited a year for this night, the only night to see his friends, the man didn’t smile at their approach. In fact, he sat motionless for hours, pain and sorrow evident from his tears.
The new day’s sun starting to mark its arrival, the man stood and saying a short prayer, came to attention and rendered a proper salute to the men of the 3rd Battalion of the Fifth Marines, as they returned home until the final armistice brought by God.
Taking the train, the man went back to his hotel to meet his grandchildren and their kids. They were ready to see the sights, drink in the ambiance of a vibrant culture, experience the history. The lone Marine kept quiet, for he had already done so.