Many years back, one of my uncles died and was given a full military funeral. he had been silent about his service, I never knew he had served at all until he died, and then there were all these soldiers who had known him in the service. They crowded around and smiled and told stories among themselves and then somberly proceeded to the casket.
At the graveyard they lined up and pulled rifles out of cases. They were all white painted Enfield 1917’s, chromed. Seven men as old as my uncle lined up, the dress uniforms freshly pressed, chests covered in medals, and fired three salvos.
I wished that I had had the presence of mind to bring a camera, but at moments like that you don’t think of such things or are too otherwise involved in your own grieving, but that picture stays with me- those seven aging men fighting past their aches and pains to come to perfect attention as if the years that had intervened had had no effect on them. The crack of three salvos, each so perfectly synchronized as to sound as a single shot, and the tears in their eyes.
So as not to make them wrinkle their uniforms I walked up afterwards and helped them police the brass. it is here now, a Remington green box with twenty blanks in their plastic holders and one extra tucked into the top of the box. They look odd at first because they are blanks. When I see them I think of that wet September day all those years ago, and those seven men who came from the four corners of the country to send off one of their own.