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MEDALLIONS #1of 1
by Rita Ractliffe
Warnings: None... mild mannered look into Hannibal's medal collection.
Synop: Hannibal finds a box with his original medals gathered over the years from his military career while visiting Kid Harmon. Post ep after race, Hannibal again welcome at Harmon house.
Medallions by Rita Ractliffe
(originally published in "Everything But The Kitchen Sink" April, 1991)
Hannibal sat up in the musty attic, listening to the patter of rain drops on the roof, the cloudy grey day precluding doing much of anything. They were on a rare visit to Jack and Kid Harmon, Dana, and little Johnnie. The guys were downstairs by the fireplace, enjoying the enforced rest. Hannibal could hear the faint sound of voices wafting up the stairs, and smiled at the homey-ness of it. His fingers were idly playing with a bunch of small brightly colored ribbon bars. He'd found them quite by accident while looking for some old family photo books. He seemed lost in thought as he looked at the small, emblematic representations of his life and deeds.
He picked up the purple one, let his thumb slide over it, feeling the small silver star, then looked at it for a moment, remembering the day he was shot down. The guys had been there - saved his butt, otherwise he would've still been there - buried. He remembered the surprise of the Claymore exploding, no chance to react, and being thrown aside like a rag doll. He'd been semi-conscious, unable to move. VC snipers had started using him for target practice. BA had come charging out like a mad bull, scooped him up and carried him back to the ditch where the rest of the squad lay, hiding. He still didn't remember too much about it, other than the medic had forced him to be taken back to base, due to a large shard of steel buried in his arm. It had broken the bone and cut a vein, sealing its own bloodflow, and they had no way of taking it out - and stopping the bloodflow - in the field. He remembered how he'd protested, just wanting to get back in action, not to leave h! is men up for grabs to the VC just over the hill. But it had been taken out of his hands.
He shook his head slightly, remembering the pain and the aggravation he'd felt. He'd gotten a long leave for it, but coming back home for a visit had been uncomfortable for everyone. Jan's husband, Jack, in particular, had hated and envied the handsome soldier, and didn't bother to hide it. Hannibal had finally gone back to 'Nam, where he felt he belonged. He pursed his lips at the bittersweet memory.
He looked into the satin-lined box, then shook it, the bars rattling around. The silver and bronze stars lay at the bottom, each with their own memory..... "conspicuous gallantry and valor in action" in Vietnam. Hannibal had never seen it that way. He'd just done what everyone else did. He merely survived where so many hadn't. He really hadn't wanted the small merits, but others higher than himself had insisted. "Accept them in memory of those you think earned them more, then," he was told. It made sense, and so he did.
The small, plain Korea service and National Defense medallions lay to one side, plainer and less gaudy than the others, but potent reminders of his early youth in the service. He'd been young and raw and eager. Like so many others, he felt inspired at being able to go out and personally strike a blow for freedom against "those Commies". It had been a brutal awakening. Korea had been unlike any war before it. The vagaries of the Oriental mind became more apparent as it dragged on. The drain on everyone, the emotional stress, all combined to exhaust even the most eager recruit. The cold - the neverending cold - had gotten to the young Lieutenant more than anything. Hannibal was from good Midwestern stock, raised in the snowy drifts of the upper Great Lakes states, but the Korean cold had been an insidious rot that slowly ate away your resolve. He'd thought once that duty in a hot-spot, a warm jungle and the like, would be heaven compared to that. He smiled ruefully to himself. Little did he know he would later get his wish so resoundingly.
A voice came up the stairs. "Uncle John, dinner'll be ready in about fifteen minutes, OK?"
Hannibal answered cheerfully, "Sure thing, Kid. Be down in just a bit."
He shook the box again. The small bars rattled around, tumbling over each other. He spotted the standard issue, the Joint Services Commendation, Bronze and Silver Stars, the Soldier's Medal, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign with bar, Distinguished Service, US Army Commendation, National Defense, Armed Forces Expedition. Once they had represented a world of honor and integrity to him. -- once -- when he was still somewhat idealistic. Then he saw IT... the medal that had been the worst ache in his heart.
He reached down, took the simple blue and silver grosgraine bar out of the box and set the box down. He looked at the medal for a long moment. The Congressional Medal of Honor. The highest award a grateful nation could bestow on its warriors. He'd never felt he earned this one either. Escaping the POW camp had been a simple fact of life; something you did just because. But somehow the brass had felt that because he'd brought out three other men with him, he'd done something special. He'd always been a little bemused by that -- if the self-same brass could have only seen the times when the Team had to carry him along, he being so very wasted and sick with dysentery and from the residual abuse he'd suffered as a POW - they might not have been so quick to honor him thus. He'd protested -- loudly -- that on this one, the guys deserved equal honor. None of them could have done it without the others military had only wanted one figurehead, and he'd been chosen.
He smiled at the memory: after the award ceremony, he'd been interviewed; asked how it.felt to be finally out of the war. Hannibal had looked askance at them. He wasn't out of it -- he still had six months to go on his current tour. He was then informed that it was standard operating procedure that Congressional Medal of Honor recipients did not go back into the fray - they'd done their share, and would stay at home and be an inspiration to other young men going into battle.
Hannibal hadn't liked that idea at all, and his answer had been to re-up for yet another tour. He had nothing Stateside to really keep him there - to come home to. Mom and Dad were dead, Jan was 'happily' married to Jack (although sometimes he wondered if that was really true), and since Jack hated his guts, going to them had never been a possible consideration. He'd missed seeing Kid grow up, but that was the way of the world. It was more politic to leave them alone. She had her baby; it was enough. She didn't really need him to be around.
Besides, he'd hated the idea of breaking up the Team. They worked well together and none of the guys had any reasons to go home either. So he'd gone back to fight again. This time, however, things turned out in a way that none of them could have ever dreamed of. That damned mission to Hanoi..... it seemed like a bright ray of light at the time. A way of doing something positive to force the end of the war (never mind the sheer, unadulterated jazz of it!). Then everything had screwed up, the war came to an end while they were in Hanoi, and they found themselves criminals, condemned by the very government they'd served so well. What good did Congressional Medals of Honor do you then? He remembered his journey back "home" - to face trial .
//Hannibal sat in his seat, manacled hand and foot to staring morosely out the plane's small window at the endless vista of water below. At one point he shifted his position, having to grapple with the manacles to do so. Face was seated next to him, watching him; the long trip over the Pacific Ocean had given him plenty of opportunity. Ever since they'd been arrested upon their return from the Hanoi job, Hannibal had been reticent, silent, holding it all in. Face sensed that he still didn't understand - even yet - what the hell had gone wrong. All he knew was Morrison was dead, and he and the boys were going to jail for obeying their orders. The defense they'd gotten had been a joke. No attempts had been made to verify anything they said once it was determined that the orders had been lost in the same explosion that killed Morrison. There was something more wrong here than usual and for once Hannibal had no answers, no comprehension of what had happened -- what he'd done wrong. He felt betrayed, and conversely, felt that he'd betrayed the guys who had merely followed his orders. He was still confused and hurt about it all; mad as hell because he was now going to face twenty years in the brig for serving his country too well. If Hannibal had ever been truly bitter in his life, this was the time. They faced a short, sweet "trial" at Bragg and then would be incarcerated for a very long time. //Not necessarily,// Hannibal had thought, the beginning of a plan forming in his mind. Had he been guilty of treason against his country, as charged, then fine - he'd have taken his lumps without a word of protest - but he'd be damned if he'd give in meekly to this travesty. He wasn't sure how the guys would react to his plan or if they would even want any part of it. But no matter; he had determined that he was not going to stay around for the final act -- not the way they had it written right now...
... and he hadn't. The guys elected to go with him, smarting every bit as much at the injustice of it all. Because they'd given their trust, and faith so willingly, Hannibal had always felt afterwards a particularly great need to watch out for them, take care of them. They were almost like the "sons" he might have had, had things worked out differently.
A noise from downstairs shook him out of his melancholy reverie. Sighing regretfully, Hannibal rubbed his fingertips lightly over the amassed collection ot 'honor' one more time, then wrapped them in the tissue and covered the box, put it away. He retrieved the book he had come up for originally, and started to open the pages. His reverie was broken again by Kid's voice hollering up the stairwell.
"Unca' John. Dinner's ready. Come on down."
Yeah, he was on the run - branded a fugitive and felon by the very people who had so honored him once upon a time. Where was the sense of it sometimes? But that was OK: he still had Kid, Dana and little John, his 'real' family; and of course the guys, the "family" he'd made for himself, and Maggie Sullivan, who was as much a dream come true as this old warhorse could wish for. It was enough -- more than enough. He smiled to himself as he went downstairs to join the crowded kitchen group, hearing the hub-bub of animated voices.
Little John had come to the stairwell to get his uncle, and Hannibal bent down, scooped up the youngster in a bearhug. "God Bless America..... " he said softly, without any bitterness. Face, standing around the corner, heard him.
"What was that?" he asked, curious.
"Nothing," murmured Hannibal as he lifted the baby to a more comfortable position and went into the dining room, his face wreathed in smiles.
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