The Promise He Could Not Keep by Louise Gallagher It’s off to war with you my boy his father said while his mother wrung her hands and cried a silent tear. It’s the right thing to do, to defend your country and your fellow man. And his father slapped him on his back and his mother waved her white handkerchief and they both sent him on his journey to war torn lands far away, with the promise to come home safe ringing in his ears. And the boy, who was not yet a man stood his ground against enemy guns and held his own with pride as he fought with boys just like him as boys just like him fought back intent on gaining the ground he’d just taken until he could stand no more against the bullets flying and tanks rolling across the land so far away from home. And he fell. Silently. Slipping away from the guns that would not stop amidst the cries of the fallen lying on the blood-red ground. And he fell. Silently. Holding fast to the memory of his father’s hand against his back and his mother’s white handkerchief bidding him farewell. He held fast. Until he could not hold on any more to the memories of the one’s he left behind. And as his last breath escaped his body and the guns were silenced in the finality of death he let go of holding on to the promise he could not keep amidst the brutality of war. And when the medal arrived, posthumously, in the mail, and his mother opened the velvet box, she cried and fell to the ground. And his father gently took her arm and helped her stand and said, It was the right thing to do, as he dabbed her tears dry with her white handkerchief. His medal still sits in its velvet box unopened beside the photo of her son who never came home. She cannot bear the weight of its memory of the boy who went off to war to become a man and could not keep his promise.