NOTE: This writing piece was for an 8th Grade Social Studies Project, for WWII and D-Day. This was written by Paige Taylor.

I miss you. Terribly. I hope all is well with the Brooks. I am alive, thankfully, but a little worse for wear.

My mind does not seem to know how to process the chain of events. Everything seems…fuzzy, around the edges. Like a tennis ball resting on my tongue.

Fragments of ideas, pieces of memories.

Sword.

Boat.

Dog tags.

Rifle.

Shoelaces.

Floor polish.

Red.

So, so much red.

The air. The ground. The sky. The water. The world.

I apologize for my state of well-being. The forever lingering smell of blood and medicine seems to cloud my mind. I will try my best to recall the last few hours. 

Sword. I was assigned to ‘Sword’ Beach, along with Sam and Dean. I remember the unspoken confidence radiating through the crowd; it reflected in everyone’s eyes like a proud, silent lion. When I saw the fierceness in our eyes, I thought we actually might stand a chance.

Boat. It was a tall, slightly menacing ship, looming over the troops like the storm overhead. It seemed like a miracle for it to float, it was so big. We marched into the ship in lines, like wind-up toy soldiers.

The trip stretched on for hours, but when the beach coasted into view, it felt as though only minutes had passed. We had slowed down significantly while nearing the shore–probably to avoid the deadly obstacles lurking below.

I remember silently calculating our battle strategy. Shoot the Nazis. Avoid the mines. Look out for people needing medical attention. Comfort the wounded. Pillage the dead. Clear and run the beach, the length of three football fields. Never surrender. Don’t die.

The door had swung open abruptly, and from that point on, I had been welcomed into the seventh circle of hell. Most of us had been shot from the boat, blood staining the water. Gunshots rang in my ears, along with cries of the fallen. White spots danced across my vision. I contemplated lying on the ground with the dead, and ceasing to exist with them.

But then I thought of you. You, Ellie, tying a pale yellow ribbon around our maple tree. You, making dinner in a silent, shadowy kitchen. You, sleeping alone in a bed too big for one. You, tears streaming down your cheeks, praying I’ll still come home.

So I took a step towards the future. Another towards safety. Two more towards victory. A walk towards ending Hitler’s reign of terror. A jog towards freedom. A sprint to go home to you.

Bullets ricocheted at my feet, but I paid no mind. Land mines and fire and death blocked my path, but I sprinted through them. In a world shrouded by darkness, I silently vowed to bring the light home to you. I spotted another familiar face in front of me. “Dean!!” I shouted, thanking the stars he was in one piece. He looked around until he spotted me, running at full speed towards him. He grinned, and ran towards a hedgehog for shelter.

As I neared closer, though, I noticed something. Dean’s smile was fading fast. His foot appeared to be at an odd angle as he perched on the hedgehog. But then I saw it. His metal-soled shoe, resting apprehensively on a Teller mine.

I stopped in my tracks. “D-Dean..?” I called out worriedly, and he gave me a sad smile. “I always was the clumsy one,” he laughed. “Seems likely I would get into a pickle here somehow.” There was water on my cheek suddenly, and I couldn’t remember why. “Can you do me a favor and tell Janice I–” I remember how defeatedly he shook his head. “Well, you were always better with words. I’m sure you can figure something out.” He glanced down at his foot, almost as if he forgot it was there. “I just have to step off, right?” “Dean, no–!” I started to protest, but he shook his head. “I’m sorry,” he said. There was water on his face too. Was it there before? “Just…don’t forget what you’re fighting for.” He stepped off the mine.

Dog tags. They were always used to identify the dead, and to comfort families. I vaguely remembered that as a silver rectangle fell from the sky. I caught the tag without even thinking about it. DEAN MCSIMMONS.

My mind stopped then. Logic dissolved. Thoughts dissipated. I was numb, a man made of ice. I hardly even

Noticed the

Rifle.

Shoelaces. I was back in my old neighborhood then, the sun setting silently over the hills. I hadn’t gotten a good run all game, and all of the other kids were getting ready to go home. I stood at bat, disheartened. If only I had one more chance to prove myself…A boy stepped up to the pitcher’s mound. “Wait, you guys!” he shouted, sounding frustrated. “Come back! There’s still someone at bat!” I looked up, dazed. Why would they wait up for someone they didn’t even know? Angry cries of “Really?” and “Come on, Dean!” reverberated throughout the baseball field, but everyone returned nevertheless, like little ducks in a row.

Dean, the pitcher, jogged up to me. “Ready?’ he asked, green eyes glinting. I shrugged meekly. He bent down at my feet, re-tying and tightening my shoelaces. “W-What are you doing?” I asked, watching his face scrunch up in concentration. “Making sure your shoes are tied, of course,” he replied swiftly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I dunno about you, but I’m a clutz, and if I were to eat it in front of a bunch of strangers, I’d be mortified.” He didn’t sound English at all–so sure of himself and straightforward. He reminded me of a proud wolf, standing tall with fierce green eyes. 

“Your shoes are your weapon, your ball your compass. Follow your arrow, and bring it home.”

Barbed wire is sharp.

R
E
D.

I remember waking up in the infirmary, the strong smell of floor polish almost suffocating me. The linen was scratchy and thin, my mouth tasted metallic, and there was ringing in the distance that would not stop. I had a small cut on my wrist, which appeared to be a victim of barbed wire.

I remember the nurse looked just like Annie.

Do you think she’ll be a nurse too?

Reporters and nurses and sergeants asked me questions in an incomprehensible language. My ears were filled with cotton, my tongue made of sandpaper.

I later learned that, 42 stitches later, I was a lucky man.

But I didn’t feel lucky at all.

I believe I’ll only feel lucky when I see you again. I long for the fresh, autumn air. Our yellow sunflowers on the table, the scent of apple pie lazily wafting in from our kitchen. Our bed just-right for two.

Tell Annie and Tommy I say hello.

Tell Janice…Well.

And lastly, before these damn reporters circle back around to me again,

I love you.

-Grayson