SHORT STORY: The Lesson

FlagBuilt during the Great War, refurbished during the Gulf War, the college History building smelled like dank wood and hopes of a better future.  Inside one of its lecture halls was an mini-session American History class (down to seven members because it was the Friday before Memorial Day.)  The average age of the students was 18 — except for one outlier. His name was David Lowe and he was 25 years old.  One of the other students had known David years before when he hung out with his older brother. But he had known a younger, wilder David Lowe. This one was different. Quieter. More focused. Serious. Almost distant.

The bell rang and the professor came in carrying a battered leather briefcase full of marked-up test papers.  ”The good news is that we have Monday off. The bad news is you had better be studying. Your test grades were TERRIBLE. Well, except, yours David.  Another A for you.”

The professor’s clothes were ill-fitting and tattered.  He had a closely cropped gray beard and if he had been wearing a short-sleeved shirts, some of the students might have noticed a “Semper Fidelis” tattoo on his right forearm.  The professor had seen the world starting in Vietnam. Now he was at this small Midwestern College enjoying peace and his well-deserved tenure.

Groans emitted from the other students as the professor handed out the quizzes. “It’s obvious to me, you completely missed the point of my lecture on Memorial Day.  Because I am so nice and it’s the day before a holiday, I am going to let you stand up before the class and talk about what Memorial Day means to you for extra credit. Who’s first?”

Adrianne, a pretty blonde with glasses, walked up to the front of the room.  She had excelled in High School and was at the college on scholarship.

“Memorial Day is a day off for me.  I will be going to the beach with my friends and I look forward to starting my tan.”

The professor rolled his eyes and called up the next student named Clay. Clay brushed his black hair out of his face and began.

“I get to sleep late.  Me and my buddies are going to buy some beer and drink it until it is gone.”

The class laughed.  The professor called up the next student.

“Hi, I’m Sam. I’m going to cook out with my friends. Memorial Day is about friends.”

The professor nodded as he called up the next student. And the next student. And the next.

He then got to David.

David limped slightly as he walked up to the podium. He looked out at his classmates with tears in his eyes.

“Memorial Day is about sacrifice.  It’s about men and women giving our country blank checks and then having them cashed.  Without those sacrifices, you wouldn’t be able to sleep late, drink beer, work on your tan and be with your friends.” David paused. He really wasn’t  lecturing his classmates. He was just trying to make them understand. “Speaking of friends, I can’t be with mine because of a really bad day.” David lifted his pant leg, revealing a prosthetic. “I lost this. They lost so much more.”

He turned, looked at the professor and said, “Semper Fi,” and sat down.

The class stared at him stunned.

The Professor smiled and said, “Semper Fi, David. And thank you for your service.”

The rest of the class all turned and thanked him as well.

Without knowledge, it’s hard to properly memorialize.  And in one small college classroom, David Lowe’s friends’ sacrifices in Afghanistan would never be forgotten.

 

 

About Marshall Ramsey