Harmon Raab, Jr. ran his ringers over the name on the wall. It was dark, but there was enough light left from the fading sun that Harm could see a reflection. Was it him or his father? Harm closed his eyes in an attempt to stop the tears, and leaned his head against the cool granite.
“Commander Raab?” Harm spun around to identify the voice. It was his commanding officer at JAG.
“Admiral,” he acknowledged. “You startled me. What are you doing here?”
“Visiting old friends,” Chegwidden said nonchalantly. “How would you like to get a drink, Mr. Raab?”
“I don’t know, sir,” Harm hesitated.
“I insist commander,” the Admiral used his commanding voice.
“Yes sir,” Harm acquiesced.
After they were seated at the diner Chegwidden spoke. “It’s not your fault.”
“Excuse me Admiral?” Harm pretended that he didn’t know what Chegwidden was talking about.
“Call me A.J. for tonight, Harm. Tonight we’re just two men talking.”
Harm nodded. “Yes sir…A.J.”
Chegwidden looked at Harm. He’d never seen the man looking so haggard. A.J. swallowed hard, trying to find the words that would bring Harm comfort. “ I used to feel guilty. Because I went to ‘Nam, and came back. Now you’re feeling guilty because you didn’t find your father soon enough.”
Harm stared hard at the red vinyl of the seat. He looked up at A.J. with drowning eyes.
“I didn’t find him soon enough,” Raab insisted. “He was still alive…” he paused as the waitress brought them menus. A.J. waved her away before she could tell them the specials. “I failed,” Harm ended barely audible.
A.J. lifted his “SEALS” ball-cap and pushed the sweat from his bald head. “Harm, there was no way you could have known. There was nothing you could have done. And what you’ve done with your life- with your career. You’re a great aviator and a damn fine lawyer- your father would be proud…I know I am.”
Raab looked at his commanding officer in surprise.
Chegwidden looked at the son he never had.
Harm wrinkled his brow in thought. “How did you stop feeling guilty?” he queried.
“”I accept that they’re gone, but I remember them. In remembering the true person, you know that they wouldn’t have wanted you to beat yourself up abut this. They knew there was nothing you could do and they accepted that…but there is one thing you can do.”
“Just don’t forget them, that’s all that they ask of you. Don’t let them have died in vain.”
Harm swallowed hard, then gave A.J. his flyboy grin. Just then the waitress came back. Pulling a pencil from her curly red hair she asked “Have you made your decision?”
“Yes,” said Harm, “I think I have.”