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A Story for the Season, (as it has become tradition)

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"A Story for the Season"

 

 

1916: Christmas Eve at the Front. The War has dragged itself along on its steely, mud-caked claws for over two years, and the end seems no closer now than when it all began. At an RFC aerodrome not ten miles from the first line trenches, a group of airmen sit through the morning’s briefing, and prepare themselves for the day’s work. They are nearly all young men, at least in years. But with war comes age beyond a calendar’s mark, and one would find that each man is far older than first appearance would tell if a moment were taken to look into his eyes. As the meeting breaks the jovial banter can be heard amongst the group: the good-natured ribbing and warnings, the verbal jousting, the camaraderie and the closeness that bonds souls together in such tenuous and temporary times. Across the mud at a German aerodrome, a similar scene is being played out. The Jagdstaffel pilots there are also preparing themselves for the task at hand. To look at them, you might imagine they were schoolmates of their British counterparts, rather than enemies soon to be locked in mortal combat. For they too laugh and joke, and share that same bond. And they too are of the "old young".

 

The hour is at hand. On each side the signal is given and the small, fast scout planes skim along the cold, icy ground, and one by one lift into a winter sky as grey as the earth below. They form up, and after climbing to their prescribed altitudes, they head towards No Man’s Land and on to do their best; for King and Country; für Kaiser und Vaterland. They meet, and there is the initial gun pass as each sizes up the other. A few moments later and the aerial battle begins in earnest. To those in the fight it is a mind-numbing blur of action that runs in both accelerated and slow motion simultaneously. A split second given to pull the trigger as a plane zips across the sights: an eternity spent to try and twist out of the path of the bullets. An entire lifetime won or lost in less than an eye blink. To those on the ground it appears as a graceful ballet of the sky, the canvas-feathered birds turning and rolling and climbing and diving. But it is a dance to the death more often than not, and it will end when one or more has fallen.

 

And one has fallen. The long, slow, spiraling pirouette as the finale comes to the dance. The others have now tired and as if by mutual agreement or unseen signal the partners separate and turn away. The audience below does not understand how it can be over so quickly. They cannot see the fatigue and exhaustion of those in the air; cannot see their battered ships, or their bruised and aching bodies; or their tired, aging eyes. No, they can see none of these things, any more than the men in the air can see the pain or the agony endured by those who must fight on the ground. Each sees the other from afar, as through a glass darkly. It is an irony of war that in each case, either in the Sky or on the Earth, a man better understands and is more akin to the enemy he fights in his realm than to his own countrymen above or below.

 

 

Christmas Eve at the Front. Night has fallen and the pilots sit about the dinner table at their respective aerodromes, and talk of flying and fighting, and of family and friends. Wishes of the Season are shared, letters from home are read. Songs of hope are sung and toasts are made to fellow flyers, and to mothers and sweethearts. At one of the tables an empty chair stands in remembrance of the comrade lost that day, and to whom the final toast is made. He will be missed, and to a loved one back home he will forever be a young man with bright, happy eyes; forever a photograph, a memory of a life that could have been. It matters not which side he fought for. He was a man, a part of human kind, and with his passing we are all the lesser for it.

 

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May you have safe and blessed holidays wherever you are, and may we each remember the true message of this season: Peace on earth, good will toward men.

 

 

Lou

 

 

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How very moving and appropriate as we approach 2014, 100 years ago the story was a reality and one not to be forgotten!

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Thanks again for sharing this, Lou! A wonderful story and a reminder that we are not always defined by what divides us but by what we all have in common.

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This brought tears to my eyes, very beautiful. 

Me too. Nicely written and (sadly) as true as can be.

 

Happy New Year, everyone, as we mark the centennial of the beginning of it.  I'm going to fire it up for the firts time and see how it goes..

Edited by HumanDrone

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Lou you are an amazing writer.  I have been around reading but not posting.  I read this today and had to comment.  I miss the stories about your young pilots, they were always a joy to read.  I have not experiecned the joys of WOFF yet as my old computer is not up to snuff.  I am going to build a new one in 2014 so I will once again fly above Flanders Fields.  I check in here often so I can see how you fine gentlemen are doing.  I hope and pray all of you had a Merry Christmas and wish all of you a prosperous and HAPPY NEW YEAR..   Thanks again Lou for your wonderful story.

 

Best wishes and happy hunting in the skies over Flanders

John

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Many thanks for everyone's personal comments on the story.  I am sincerely touched by them all and they make me feel like writing again.  Life has been keeping me so busy this last year or so that it just doesn't seem as if there are enough hours in the day to get to everything I would really like to do.

 

 

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Lou I know what you mean.  I seem to work go home and collapse into a chair.  Most weekends we have two to four of our grandkids here.  I just reached the age of 60 and I wonder why they are called the golden years.  I look back and see all I have done and feel I left so many things undone.  I look at my family and those grandkids love being with us and I think maybe I did pretty good.  I know you will find time to do some of everything you want,  I am glad you share what you have locked inside that creative mind of yours.  Thanks for all you share and we look forward to the day you have more time to bless us with your writing skills.

Happy Hunting in the Skies over Flanders John

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