The Lonely Veteran

The Lonely Veteran

Status: Finished

Genre: Gay and Lesbian

Details

Status: Finished

Genre: Gay and Lesbian

Tags

Summary

After Gary Stevens discovers that six years is a long time, and makes a fatal choice.

Tags

Summary

After Gary Stevens discovers that six years is a long time, and makes a fatal choice.

Content

Submitted: December 10, 2012

A A A | A A A

Content

Submitted: December 10, 2012

A A A

A A A


The Lonely Veteran

Nobody ever gets hurt in a love triangle. Whoever was ignorant enough to make that statement has never been the victim of a love triangle, because there are at least two victims in every three way tie.

Jake Tally looked at himself in the mirror and critically accessed his suit, it was snug on his lean muscled frame, but that was hot.

Trevor was sitting on the bed across the room. Jake did not set out to hurt anyone, he really did love Trevor, but Gary expected a rendezvous tonight, and Jake had to know. They had been seeing each other again for almost a month now. It brought to the surface memories of their time in Iraq, but could Jake build a relationship on memories? Could he be happy being on the cusp of the moon? 

Memories flooded his mind.

In Iraq Jake was the centerpiece on a table set by a Marine Captain. They met in a dingy, dirty out-of-way service hotel not far from Joint Spec Ops Command in Baghdad. 

Gary Stevens was gay; at least that’s what he said. There was a special bond between them. It was Jake’s first real gay encounter. Gary taught him things he had never experienced before.

It wasn’t easy for them to get away, but as an officer, Gary always seemed to find a way. It was so good too.

They were together for almost three years, during lulls in the action, which came often during the last few months. Gray made Jake promise to keep their Liaison on the down-low. Jake had no intentions of outing Gary.

You have to be sure you don’t let it slip. That was when Jake started to wonder if Gary was on the up and up. He said there was no one, but Jake couldn’t shake the warning in his gut. Do not get Hung-up on this guy. It nagged at him each time they were together.

In 2006, they each received notice, at different times that they were going home. Miraculously, Jake made it through three years without anyone knowing about his sexual preference, except for Trevor, several gay friends and Gary of course.

Two weeks before Gary was due to ship out, Trevor came to visit him one night. 

“Hey Jake, I’ve been watching you and the Captain real close. You are hung-up real bad for him, but there is something he has not told you. You think when you get back to the states you and Gary are going to have a future together, but that’s so not going to happen.”

“Gary said that he’d come to me within in a year.” Jake replied. “He told me he had some things to clear-up back in his home town.”

“Yeah, he has a lot to clear-up. I have known Gary Stevens since high school and he is not who you think he is. Why Gary so adamant about keeping it on the down-low? Why has he distanced himself from you during the past month?”

“I thought it had something to do with DADT? So I didn’t bother to ask. The Army and the Marines are not as tolerant of gays as the Navy. I wondered, but I guess I didn’t really want to know.”

“Well, you’d better sit down. This is heavy shit. It’s going to hurt, but I’m your friend and I can’t allow you to go home without telling you the truth.”

Trevor sat down on the chair near Jake’s bunk. He took a black book out of his pocket, opened it and turned to a specific place, marking it with his finger, whilehe retrieved a toothpick from his shirt pocket, replaced his finger with the flat plastic pick, and closed it again.

 Jake was sitting on the edge of his bunk wringing his hands.

“Gary is a real fuck-head.” Trevor said.  “He has a wife and three kids. He told me that as long a Jenny doesn’t know, nobody will get hurt. He doesn’t consider what he has with you infidelity, because you can’t have a kid, and he knows you will never tell Jenny.”

Those words did not come as a total shock to Jake, but they did shake him.  He had been suspicious of Gary’s honesty after that night. Gary said he was going downstairs to the tavern to have a beer, in retrospect now though, Jake knew he called his wife. He forgot to take his wallet, so Jake went through it.  He found a picture of a gorgeous blond woman. She had blue eyes and a beautiful smile. When Gary returned to the room, Jake confronted him about the picture.

Gary just laughed it off. ‘She’s my sister.’ He said.

Jake never asked again, but Trevor’s words confirmed his worst fears.

In spite of Jake’s best efforts, it did hurt. When Jake took the book from Trevor’s hands, his own were shaking. He opened it to the place Trevor had marked and pulled out an envelope. He would never forget the words written on the Lavender scented page.

My Dearest,

I can’t wait until you return home. The girls can’t wait either. Dad and mom have a party planned for you. Dad is so proud of you. He says you are the son he never had. Mom doesn’t say much. You know she has never liked you.

Stacy and Marsha are doing great in school and Dina is growing like a weed. I love you so much.

Mom keeps telling me something is not right. I know what she thinks, but I will never tell. She just doesn’t like you.

Anyway, like I said. I love you and I can’t wait until you get home.

Your Princess

Jenny

With trembling fingers Jake put the letter into the envelope again.  He closed the book and handed it back to Trevor. How did you get this?

“Asshole that he is, Gary left this lying right where I could see it. Maybe he did it on purpose. He’s not only a Fuck-head; he’s a cheating fuck-head. Look Jake, I know how this hurts. I can see it in your eyes. Let me be your friend, will you?”

“You will always be my friend, Trev. We have known each other for three years. You always treated me right.”

Jake knew what Trevor meant, but he just couldn’t go there at that time. It hurt too damn much. After he read the letter he tried to convince himself that Gary meant nothing, but the pain was just too intense. He fought the tears, and finally he gave in. Trevor was there. He held Jake until he was all cried out. Well, at least that night, but every time he saw Gary for the next two weeks, he cried some more. Trevor was right, Gary Stevens was an asshole.

Jake returned stateside. He left the Navy a short time later.

It took several months, but was he finally got over Gary. Like a true friend Trevor was there. He even moved from LA to Jake’s home town in Wisconsin to help him cope.

A year ago they rented an apartment together and they were happy. They even talked about getting married, but last month Gary Stevens called Jake. It was the first time Jake heard from him in six years. Two days later he came to town. He had been in Cahill Flats every since.

Trevor was still the faithful friend and loyal lover. He stayed with Jake even when it hurt.

 “Jake, wake up,” Trevor said, bringing Jake into the room again. “This is now and you have changed. Gary wants you to play mistress for him. I know you better than that. You will never be happy.”

Jake turned from the mirror and walked across the room to the bed. He extended his arms and Trevor walked into his embrace.  He held Trevor like he was going to disappear.

“Oh, Trev, I love you so much, but I have to do this. I have to be sure.”

Trevor stepped away and looked up into Jake’s blue eyes. “I know this Jake; I’ll be here when you get home.”

Jake dabbed the tears away from Trevor’s face with his thumb.  He kissed him long and hard. “I’ll be home late, Trev. I do love you.” 

“You won’t be happy as a part-time lover, Jake. Gary has to make up his mind too. If he loves you, he will divorce Jenny. Tell him to go home and be a husband to Jenny, and a father to his kids.” Trevor turned his back. “I have said all I am going to say. The choice is yours.”

  *****

“I love you.” Trevor said as he heard the apartment door close behind Jake. The Truck engine turned over and Trevor’s heart dropped into the pit of his stomach.  Trevor would not be human if he didn’t hurt. He loved Jake since the day they met in Iraq, but Jake was infatuated with Gary. Trevor took the back seat and painfully and patiently observed.

Trevor brushed the back of his hand across his blue eyes. His slight build was deceptive; he could put Arnold Schwarzenegger to shame. 

He loved Jake and he couldn’t let him go home believing the Gary Stevens was going to make it permanent.

Two weeks later Gary went home and the CO allowed Trevor to transfer to Jake’s tent. He was a good man. Although he was straight, he had a lot of gays in his team. He treated them right. After Trevor returned to the states he moved to Wisconsin to be near Jake. It was Jake’s idea for them to rent this apartment together.

When He asked Trevor how he felt about marriage; Trevor’s heart skipped a beat. Although this was what he was waiting to hear something wouldn’t let him say yes, but when Gary Stevens called last month, he understood his hesitation.

 

*****

Cahill Flats was thirty miles north of Milwaukee. Years ago this small town was a cement and gravel pit, thus, the swamp north of town. Jake never knew Cahill Flats was so big. It had so many ways to escape. He drove three times around town. He was now standing here at the edge of the Pond, swamp really. He spent the last hour just thinking.

What was he doing? How could he do this to Trevor?  He’d never be happy as Gary’s part-time lover, and Gary would not leave his wife.  He checked his watch. It was getting late. He was supposed to rendezvous with Gary at the truck stop north of town a ten o’clock.

The truck stop was the place where many gays rendezvoused.

He walked up the hill to his truck, got in and started the engine.  He backed out of the swamp area, drove through the thick grayish mud, and turned north at the highway.

Few trucks stopped at Cahill Flats Truck Stop anymore, it was all but abandoned ten years ago when the cement plant finally closed. 

Jake drove into the back parking lot, turned Rover off and just sat there staring at the sign. The lights were out in the second letter in each word of Cahill Flats, making the sign read like a French establishment. Most of the lights around the edges of the sign had also burned out. He could see through the plate glass windows into the café, and into the parking lot in front of the building. There no customers inside, but he could see Gary’s car parked in one of the spaces, directly in front of the café. He was sitting inside a late model Ford, smoking a cigarette. He was keeping time to the music on his radio.

It was strange what a man could see through a lighted window. It was also strange for a person to smoke a cigarette before a rendezvous, but this was jst rendezvous, not a dinner date.

Jake got out or his truck, locked the doors, and walked toward Gary’s car. As he approached the back fender, the door opened and Gary stepped out. He closed the door with care.

“So, are you ready to do this?” Gary asked as he looked at Jake.

The words slapped Jake like a hand across the face. He shook his head and looked into Gary’s black eyes. He didn’t care.  “Am I ready to do this? Gee, Gary, you make it sound so inviting and romantic. I’ll tell you what, let’s go inside, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. We need to talk.”

“Whatever,” Gary said. “You’re calling the shots.”

 *****

Trevor couldn’t sleep. He was sure he paced a trench in the carpet between the bedroom and the living room. It was three in the morning and Jake still wasn’t home. The way Jake kissed Trevor and held him said so much, but Trevor didn’t trust Gary. He knew the asshole had a temper. If he felt Jake tricked him he could easily take it out of Jake’s hide. That was just the kind of prick he was. That’s how Jenny got pregnant with their first child.

 *****

The headlights of a passing truck flashed through the window. Their apartment was on the second floor of a detached house. It was small, but it was just right for him and Jake. Trevor smiled as he remembered the day they picked up the keys.

Jason Hagan, the landlord, was adamant that no children were allowed. What the fuck, no kids-do I look like a woman to you? Jake asked. The old man grinned and handed Jake the keys. They moved in the next day.

Trevor heard Jake climbing the steps to their private entrance. He stayed at the window until he couldn’t stand it. When the door opened, he was standing there waiting.

“I tried to be patient, but . . . well,” Trevor said.

“I did a lot of thinking tonight, Trev.” Jakes said as Trevor enveloped him in a bear hug.  I told Gary go be a husband and father.” His words were muffled, but Trevor understood, because he squeezed tighter. “I said I loved you. I actually told him to forget about me.

 *****

 

Gary’s Encounter

Gary was the only person in the cafe besides the waitress, a tall, older woman in her mid forties with gray hair. She filled his coffee mug again and went back to the counter. Gary wrapped both hands around the warm mug as he stared into space.  Did he really think Jake would be overjoyed to see him? It had, after all, been six years. Gary knew Trevor had a thing for Jake in Iraq, but he didn’t think it was so intense that Trevor would actually move to this backwoods town in Wisconsin to be with him.

Gary always underestimated Trevor though. They met when they were juniors in high school. They had a liaison for a few months, but Trevor was open and out, and Gary was just an asshole, trying to convince himself that he was straight.

His brother, Justin, was his biggest ally alongside his mother, but Justin died in Kuwait in 1992, and Maryanne Stevens died of Cancer in 1999.

His father was a religious fuck and like most fucks he took two obscure scriptures in the bible, about unnatural love, out of context, and translated unnatural love to mean homosexuality, when it could just easily mean incest or bestiality.  Gary’s grandfather was a self-righteous religious preacher, but unlike most Pentecostals, he was a likeable man. Gary tended to think that Dr. Stevens’ opposition to homosexuality was more to save face than anything. He and Gary always got along, and the Doctor was proud of Justin.

Mike Stevens was alone his hypocritical beliefs; his father’s was just an asshole, like most fanatics. Gary believed that the Moral Majority of yesteryear, was not only in the minority, today, they were moral only when nobody was looking. A perfect person finds the skeleton in my closet, so he doesn’t have to look in his own.

Jenny always was a flirt, but Gary did love her. When they were seniors in high school, she flirted shamelessly with him, and when it looked like Gary was losing interest, she took a bold step designed to keep him hooked, but that night she refused to make good on it. That made Gary mad, he raped Jenny, and she got pregnant. He married her six weeks after she told him. He got real close to her dad.  

Nathaniel Casen accepted Gary as part of the family. He never had a real father. Gary hadn’t spoken with his old man since his Justin’s memorial service, He made a conscious choice, and he got what was coming to him. Gays don’t deserve to live.  Gary’s father told him. That was the last time Gary and his father saw had or spoke to each other.

When his mother died in 1996, he visited to the funeral home, but was not invited to the church service. He waited until his father left the cemetery before he said goodbye. He cried for more than an hour at her grave, laid a red rose at the base of the marble headstone and walked away. The last Gary heard about Mike Stevens, he was living a less than righteous lifestyle in Massachusetts with his male lover. That’s holy for you.

When Gary met Jake in Iraq, he fell in love, or at least he fell in love with the idea of loving Jake, but commitment was never part of the shuffle. He was pretty sure Mr. Casin knew about his other side, and he knew Mrs. Casen suspected. Jenny knew it too, but she loved him anyway. Mildred Casin hadn’t liked Gary from the beginning. Nathan Casen always said Gary was the son he never had.  I am so proud of you, Gary, your father made a big mistake when he alienated you.

Gary wasn’t sure why he came to Cahill Flats at all. He never intended to leave Jenny. He had a real father now, for the first time in his life, and one of these days he’d prove to Mrs. Casin that he was a good man. He’d pressured Jake into this rendezvous tonight, but when Jake met him outside his car at the truck stop, Gary realized that he did not intend to make good on this rendezvous. He respected Jake for his decision too, but he lost two friends in the process. Trevor and Jake were now in the past.

Gary drank the last of his coffee and was preparing to leave the truck stop when a tall red headed man about fifty, entered the café. The man’s gaydar honed-in and when he started toward the corner booth, all of Gary’s good intentions were forgotten. What was wrong with getting fucked up the ass in the backroom of a truck stop in the middle of a swamp in Wisconsin? 

The man walked to the booth in the back, where Gary was sitting and smiled at him, revealing two rows of pearly white teeth.

“Do you do bareback?” He asked.

It was a rather bold proclamation of his intentions, but Gary smiled.  “Once in the while, he said, when I can get to the arena, but I have to tell you, I’m married and I love my wife.”

“I have a partner too,” the man said, Name’s Mike.” He sat down across from Gary. “But Terry and I have an open relationship. He does his thing and I do mine.”

“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?” Gary asked.

“Does your wife know you are here?” Mike asked.

“Yeah, I told her I needed a breather.”

“People love each other don’t normally have to take breathers,” he said. “But then who am I to talk? Men who love one another don’t normally do an open-ended relationship either.”

The waitress set his cup on the table and filled it with coffee. “Hey there, Mike, Jamie out of town again, huh?”

“Yeah, he and Morgan went to Tahoe last night.”

“When are you two going to call it quits?” She asked. “You have not ridden in the same rodeo for two years now.”

“We like variety,” Mike said. “It always feels good to ride in another rodeo once in the while. Even if you do ride the other stud more than you do your own.”

The woman arched her eyebrows and walked away. “Stay away from my son, Mike. He’s just a kid.”

 “Rena is like . . . one of us. She has been with Trina since her husband left her ass ten years ago. If Mitch is young, I’m ancient. Are you sure you want to buck with me?”

“I like my bucks without reins.” Gary said.

“Then we should get along famously.” Mike replied. “Are you in any big hurry to go home to the misses?  Jamie won’t be coming home for another week or so. If you get tired of riding in my rodeo, I can introduce you to some younger, bigger, studs.  Let me take you to my place. It just seems sordid to rodeo in the back room of a truck stop.  No matter how nice the arena is. There’s a lot more room in my arena anyway.”

For a minute Gary felt a pang of guilt, but only for a minute. “For real, how’s the fuck?”

“That depends upon the stud man. I can give it to you slow and easy or Hard and fast.”

“We’d better come up with something quick, my horns ready to blow.”

“I like it when the bucks horn blows with little incentive. What do you say we use the large arena here at the truckstop? I’m ready for a ride.”

“That sounds superb, this stud could used a good ride too.”

Mike drank the last of his coffee, got up, andsatred toward the counter, and Gary followed him, attempting to hide the efects of the stimulating converstaion on the front of his tight pants, he should have worn his jocks, but face it, he really didn’t plan to be proped up by a hard leg. When he saw that nobody was looking, he walked as quickly as possible to the counter.

 

“Are you coming, Gary?” Mike asked.

“Damn leg’s stiff,” Gary said.

“I can see that.” Mike replied as he slid his credit card through the machine and in turn, Rena slid a yellow envelope toward Mike.

“Zeek must have known you’d be dropping by again, about a month he  put a new king-sized bed in the large arena in the back. Let me know what you think.”

“Always, Rena,” Mike said as he removed a large gold key from the envelope.” “Come on, Stud, you’re hurting bad.”

 *****

The door swug opend, Gary walked into the suite and his jawed dropped in surprise. He’d assumed the backroom would be just that, a dirty little backroom, but this was a fucking luxury suite. There was even a kitchette in here, and the living room was furnished with leather furniture. He followed Mike toward the bedroom and then saw the overstuffed couch.

“At least for starters, that sofa looks plenty good enough for a good buck. What do you say?”

 

 *****

Gary squinted his eyes as the sun peaked through the drapes on the window. At some point last night, or rather this morning, he and Mike must have finshed the rodeo in the bedroom, because his right leg was laying across Mike’s ample hips and Mike’s big hand was doing it’s magic between Gary’s legs.

He moaned. “Nice . . . way to . . . wake up.” He said as he tensed.

“I kind of thought you’d enjoy an early morning wake-up call.”

The alarm stopped buzzing as a big hand came down on top of the nightstand.

“Charles will leave breakfast outside the door.” Mike said. “I’m preoccupied at the moment.”

“I. . . can tell. I need to buck before breakfast anyway.”

 

 

 *****

November 24, 2012

 

The Canadian cold front had arrived last night and this moring there was three inches of new snow on the ground. Jake was sitting at his desk and Trevor was in the kitchen preparing the Thanksgiving Turkey. Jason and Marty were coming to dinner. Jake and Trevor were making plans to move to Boston. Jake’s company in Milwaukee was transferring him to the Boston parent firm. He had answered an announcement in Ad Associate, the in-house newsletter, back in August before Gary Stevens called.

A week ago he and Trevor went to Boston to do the interview. He was taken aback when, rather than Ad Associate, he was interviewed for, and hired as, Executive Ad Consultant. Two Executive ad teams handled six of the most prestigious accounts in the firm, three per team.

Stacy Corrigan told Jake that the position was the right shoe for him; Executive Ad Consultant was just a glorified name for fall guy. When the Exec screwed up, his consultant got blamed. That didn’t happen often at Corrigan and James they were the best, but it did happen. Trevor owned his own business in the Flats as a Graphic Artist. He was also an excellent chef. He was ready to move back into city life again, especially in Massachusetts. They had already made a down payment on a penthouse on the sixteenth floor in a new high rise complex. They were leaving Wisconsin as soon as their lease was up, at the end of the year.

 *****

Jason Hagan and his partner Sweetcakes, that’s all Jake and Trevor had known the younger man by, were sitting at the dining table in Jake’s and Trevor’s apartment. Tonight and Christmas day were the last two meals these four friends would share together in Cahill Flats. He and Trevor were leaving for Boston the day after Christmas.

 Jake walked into the dining room and sat down at the table.

“I’m going to miss you guys.” Jason said.  “Nobody could ask for better tenants. You were the first to rent this place, and you’ve really done wonders with it. You made it your own. I shouldn’t have any problem renting it after you leave. Not everyone in this town is anti gay. There are three straight couples and one single female student who are interested in renting this place after you two leave, to say nothing about six gay couples.”

“We’ll miss you too,” Jake said.  “Maybe you and Sweetcakes can come visit us.”

“Hey, Jake did you hear about Gary Stevens?” Trevor asked.

“I think every gay who frequents the truck stop, and even a few who do not, has heard about the stud who rides bareback like a pro.” Jake said. “Mike told me he introduced Gary to a couple real pros down in Milwaukee at the Time Out Club.”

“I knew Gary Stevens was a prick, but I never thought he’d go that route, a fuck club?” Trevor said.”

“Mike said they made arrangements to meet at The Time Out next month, but what about Jenny?” Jake asked.

“That’s the worst part. She’s hurting  really bad. I talked to her last night. She is going to give Gary his riding papers.” Trevor replied. “The kind of shit he’s into into will get you killed.”

“I guess Mrs. Casen was right not to trust Gary.”Jake said. “What about Nathan Casen? “He actually considered Gary to be his son.”

 “You know,” Jason said. “You can’t always blame the parents in these arrangements, both individuals had a choice. Mom’s religious embarrassment is no excuse. Can we please talk about something else,” he asked. “I really don’t want to talk about Gary Stevens.

“What he is doing will have its way with him.” Jake said. “How does a good Stud movie sound to you guys? I don’t mean porn either. I mean a good story.”

“I think that’s the best thing I have heard all night.  What have you got? By the way my name is Marty.” Sweetcakes said. “This conversation is getting stale.

Gary got up and walked into the livingroom to the CD cabinet and started rattling off movie titles. “How does Brokeback mountain sound?” He asked as he pulled it out of the cabinet.

“That sounds great.” Marty said as he and Jason sat down on the sofa.

Jake shut the glass door on the cabinet and looked up as a picture of Gary flashed onto the televison. He pressed the mute button and the sound came up.

 “At 3a.m. today, the nude, badly beaten body of Gary James Stevens was found in a dumpster behind The Time Out Club, Milwaukee’s premier gay establishment, and investigation is pending. Police say there is evidence of foul play.

“Stevens was discharged from the Marines in 2006, because he was gay.” The anchorman’s voice broke, he swallowed, and quickly dabbed the tears from each eye, and cleared his throat. “How many of American veterans, gay and straight, have been discharged from an intolerant military only to return home and die of a PTSD episode, because are denied the same benefits as their comrades. Many times this happens because the soldier is gay, or he has defended a gay man or woman. Is this equality?  

“What the fuck,” Trevor said as he stood in the middle of the room staring at the television and his cell phone rang. He read the monitor and quickly answered it. “Yeah, Jenny,” There was a pause as Trevor listened to Jenny. “I just saw it.” He listened some more.

“She didn’t really say that to your dad?” Trevor asked unable to mask his incredulity.

“What’s that all about?” Jason asked.

“Since Trevor is talking to Jenny, and her mother is super religious, I’d say she drew the religious Queen of Hearts.”

“You’re kidding, she’s that cruel?”

“I never met her, but Trevor said she’s actually worse than most.”

“Jenny, there is nothing anyone can do. I know how hard it’s going to be for your dad,” Trevor said. “You have to be strong for him and your kids.”

Trevor handed his phone to Jake, who listened for a few seconds. “Jenny, it’s been a long time since I felt that way about Gary, but I will always think of him as a friend. Let me talk to Trevor, I’ll call you back.”

Jake handed the phone back to Trevor. “Jenny asked me to give a eulogy for Gary, but I don’t know.”

“Why not, I mean aside from the obvious? You and Gary were friends before you were lovers.” Trevor said. “Do it for gay veterans.”

“Yeah,” Marty said. “I mean, I didn’t know the guy, and I wouldn’t have liked him, but hey, he was a hero. He deserves it.”

 *****

The Funeral

November 27, 2012

Poplar Grove, Ohio

The weather seemed to agree with the somber mood of this day. It was only twenty degrees above zero, the sky was a gray-white and the wind was blowing out the north. There was already six inches of snow on the ground, atop the foot that had fallen over the past two days, and it was snowing again. As the people walked through the gate at the Poplar Grove Community the ground cracked beneath their feet.

Poplar Grove, Ohio was much larger than Cahill Flats, Wisconsin. It was a suburb fifteen miles north of Columbus and this small church was filled to capacity.

Although Nathan Casin was a well-liked buisnessman, and a highly respected person, Jake knew well, that it was not his influence that filled the pews of this church.

Gay rights groups, and Veterans, whether gay or not, had come from all over the country to attend this memorial service.

Jake was not fooled though. For every Gay Rights Activist, or gay Marine, there were three Homophobes or religious fanatics, who claimed that God had taken his wrath upon a sinner.

Reporters from as far away as Cleveland, maybe even further, were here also. Some of them were actually here out of compassion and concern for the family of the deceased.

Jake had counted at least four television vans, and not a few SUV’s with radio logos on the doors, parked in the lot in front of the church. Two out of every three of them were hate mongers, who were here to support the hypocrites, who claimed they had God’s ear and his heart as well.  Gary’s casket was closed, because of the damage done to his face. Jake did not ask to see the body. It was unnecessary. He thought there would only be a small group of perhaps thirty actual mourners in these pews, but he was wrong, the church was packed.

 Nathan Casin sat beside Jenny in the first row, the kids sat on the other side of him, and Trevor sat next to Jenny on the aisle side. Jason and Marty came to support, and Mike Timmons was even there. Gary’s death had a profound effect on him. I was going to ask Terry to release me from my commitment vow. It’s not like we were married, it’s just the right thing to do. I really loved Gary. I begged him not to go to the Mill, before he came to the Flats.

As Jason looked out into the sea of faces he recognized the news anchor from WNRY in Milwaukee. Following his emotional reaction to the news of Gary’s death, Jake wondered if the man had a personal interest in these proceedings.

“Ladies and gentleman,” He said as he looked at Trevor, who smiled, he didn’t even know he was holding his breath until he got dizzy, he exhaled and spoke.

“Gary James Stevens was the victim of an intolerant society. As a child life dealt Gary a cruel hand that did more damage to his psyche than any war ever could when his father rejected him, with military rejection the cycle was complete.

Someone in the back of the church stood up and prepared to speak, but a Marine in the pew behind her, put his hand on her shoulder, she turned to see who was touching her and looked right in the man’s black eyes. She sat down again.

“In Iraq Gary told me some of what his life was like. It is bad enough to be rejected by your own father, but when someone says you are opnly good enough to die for your nation, but you are not human enough to be treated equally it does something to the psyche. I did not learn that Gary was married until shortly before he returned home, and I didn’t know why he was suddenly discharged until several weeks after I returned to the states. .

“Wehad not spoken in six years before he called me in October. He was totally lost. He loved his wife, but his mother-in-law had convinced him that he was depraved and worthless. It’s really too bad when one’s purpose in life, may just be to die.

“Mommy, I have to go.” One of Gary’s daughter’s said. A few people chuckled, and then there was silence again.

“Gary’s life had very little impact on anyone, but in death he has made an entire nation aware of a plight that meets many discharged veterans, whether gay or straight. The military makes sure these discharges happen before they soldiers have served their full time, thereby, denying that man or woman, the Basic Benefits Package, promised to all young recruits at the time of enlistment.

“Therefore, unless these young men and women are independently wealthy, they cannot afford the treatment necessary for their PTSD, and all veterans suffer from some form of this condition.

“I know there are those sitting in these pews, who are turning up your noses at my words, and shaking your self-righteous heads at my words, but like your son or daughter, Gary James Stevens had a mother and a father, and when last I looked, that made him human.

“Gary James Stevens did not die because he was gay. Gary died because he was a lonely veteran, who was denied a basic human right to love and acceptance, because of who he was.”

Jake cleared his throat, pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. A cheer filled the church and someone in the back of the church began to chant Gary’s name. The chant grew steadily louder, until it filled the church, and then a really strange thing happened.

If Jake lived to be a hundred, he could not explain exactly what took place, because he couldn’t believe he was actually seeing it.

A group of Marine Veterans formed a line down the center aisle of the church. The man in front of the procession raised his bugle and played taps. Four Marines took their places on either side of the white casket, lifted it, and carried it out of the church.

Trevor waited at the door for Jake, and after the church emptied, they walked outside. Nathan Casin met him at the door.  The tall, dark man was a formative presence.  “Thank you for this, son,” he said. “I know you didn’t organize the procession, but you have played an important role in honoring my son.”

 

 *****

As Jake stepped outside of the church doors, several reporters vied with each other to get an exclusive interview with the gay man, who had just so eloquently stated his position, hoping to return home and spread hate in their columns. A tall man wearing a dark suit stepped in front of Jake as he set his foot on the ground at the bottom of the steps, in front of the church. The man shoved his mike under Jake’s nose and spoke. “How does this man’s death make you feel, Mr. Tally?”

Jake took immediate offense at the question. “I’ll dare you!” He said. “Have you no shame? You come to the funeral of a hero, for no other reason than to criticize him, because he did not live his life like you do. Although, I’m not sure I’d want to live a life according to your standards. It’s too hard being perfect.” The sarcasm dripped from Jake’s words.

“Whoa there, Mr. Tally, I’m on your side here.” The man said.

Jake swallowed then. “Look, I’m sorry. It’s just that I know that too many of these people are here, not to honor Gary, but to hate him.” He swept his arm to indicate the reporters standing around waiting their turn, a turn they would never get, because Nathan Casin and the Poplar Grove Sherriff stepped forward.

“Okay gentlemen and ladies, clear the area. There will be no more interviews. Clear the area now.” He said. He turned and ushered Jake through the group of media. “Are you going to the cemetery, son?” He asked as he led Jake and Trevor to his car.

“Yes, thank you.” Jake said.

Mike Timmons had gone to the cemetery with Jason and Marty, who had driven up yesterday.

 *****

At the cemetery another awesome thing happened. There was a twenty-one-gun salute, the flag was carefully removed from the coffin, neatly folded, and the Marine, who led the procession, laid the flag atop Jenny’s hands. The coffin was then lowered into the ground, taps was played again, and Jenny gave the flag to Nathan Casin. “You deserve this, Dad.” She said.

There is honor in death. Jake thought. 

 

 


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