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“Mr. Stewart? You ready to go, sir?”
“You bet. Lead the way!”
The 96-year old man didn’t need a walker, and only used a cane when he expected to have to walk enough to cause age-related aches and pains. This trip to Washington DC was one of those times, so he grabbed it, stood up, and made his way toward the waiting jet.
“Good morning,” they heard a flight attendant say to a boarding passenger as they got closer to her.
“Welcome aboard,” she told the next person.
“Have a pleasant flight,” she said to a couple traveling together.
It was now their turn, and she smiled brightly at them, then said, “You must be Mr. Stewart. Thank you for your service to our country, sir.”
“Oh, well, that was over 70 years ago, young lady,” he told her as he showed her his boarding pass.
“Well, you look very good for a man in his 70s,” she teased.
Mr. Stewart turned to his much-younger chaperone and said, “That one’s a looker!”
The younger man smiled, showed his boarding pass, and got a ‘thank you’ from her, as well.
“I never served, but helping those who did is my way of giving back,” he told her.
He hesitated then said, “Mr. Stewart’s right, you know?”
Someone else filed by as she said, “What’s that?”
“Mr. Stewart said you were ‘a looker’. I agree,” he said with a smile.
The woman smiled back and laughed politely before saying, “Have a nice flight.”
James Kirk, or more precisely, James Tiberius Kirk, was 26 years old and had been named after the fictional captain of the Starship Enterprise in the original Star Trek series. His late father had been a Trekkie since he was a teenager, and while his wife was hesitant about naming their son after the William Shatner character, she gave in and agreed. She’d always loved the name James, and it was in the top-10 list for boys born that year, so he became James T. Kirk.
James had been asked about it so many times he’d lost track. He’d also heard every possible one-liner from ‘beam me up, Scotty!’ to ‘he’s dead, Jim’, even though Doctor McCoy never said those exact words. He took it all in stride the way he did everything else in life.
Now in his final year of medical school, James was still never too busy to find ways to help out people in need. He often did whatever he could for single moms, the elderly, or veterans. He bought groceries for them, picked up their medications, hung ceiling fans, painted, and occasionally even cooked meals.
So when the chance to escort a WWII veteran to Washington DC came up, he jumped at the chance. Doing so was his honor and an outright pleasure.
Like most men of that era, Mr. Miles Stewart wasn’t much of a talker. He was quiet and thoughtful, and when he felt the need to say something, he was direct without being intentionally blunt.
As a member of a B-17 Flying Fortress aircrew, Miles knew he shouldn’t be there boarding the plane. He was on his 18th mission when his bomber was shot down. He was the only survivor and had lived through the ordeal with barely a scratch while the rest of crew had all burned to death.
Miles was the tail gunner, and when the plane hit the ground, the pilot was doing his best to land it in an open field with one engine barely working. It hit hard then skipped. The entire tail snapped off sending the young man flying through the air, then skidding to a halt with him still inside the turret, somewhere in the south of France.
When his section of the plane came sliding to a halt, he was literally facing the rest of the plane that was maybe a hundred yards in front of him. He saw it catch fire after flipping and rolling, and all he could do was look away and pray for some kind of miracle.
One came in the form of a young girl from a local village who found him a few minutes later before the Germans did. None came for the rest of the crew, but Miles had a second miracle after the war ended when he returned to France and married that pretty young girl.
She’d passed on nearly 15 years ago after giving him two sons, a daughter, and six grandchildren, and now a baker’s dozen’s worth of great-grandchildren.
For Miles Stewart every day he’d lived after that crash was a gift to be cherished. And this day was yet another in a very long line of them; one in which he’d be able to honor his fallen comrades at the World War II Memorial in the nation’s capitol.
Miles had been in the Army Air Corps, so when he was told the Secretary of the Air Force, the Air Corps’s successor since 1947, would be there to meet him, all he’d said was, “Well, that’ll be fine, I suppose.”
James found their places in the first-class section then offered Miles the window seat.
“Oh, okay. Well, sure. It might be nice to look out the window of a plane again,” he said.
Miles Stewart had never flown since that fateful day in early 1945. He’d taken a cruise ship back to France to find that pretty young girl then the two of them floated their way back to America and taken the train from Washington Ankara escort DC to Seattle, Washington.
Had his oldest son not pushed him to go to this event, he’d have been happy to never fly again.
A different flight attendant walked up to them, smiled, and asked, “What can I get you gentlemen?”
Miles was looking out the window at the ground crew and hadn’t heard.
“Mr. Stewart?” James said.
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“Oh. Well, do they have any of that V8 juice? I really like the taste of it.”
“Coming right up,” she told him.
Then she looked at James and said, “How about you, gorgeous?”
James Kirk was used to being flirted with. He was one of those fortunate enough to born with all the features women loved in a man. His face was very symmetrical, he had a perfect smile, great hair, and thanks to regular workouts with resistance bands, a very toned body.
He’d lifted weights in high school and college, but medical school had been so demanding, he started looking for an alternative that didn’t require travel time to and from a gym. Just the thought of using ‘rubber bands’ seemed downright ‘girly’ to him, but after trying a friend’s just one time, he was hooked. He could do everything he’d done in the gym right at home and only needed one small box to hold everything required for a killer workout.
“Some orange juice, please?” he said with a smile.
“You got it,” she told him.
When she came back, she handed Miles his salty, red drink, then set James’s down on a napkin. She smiled again, tapped the corner of the napkin where her phone number was written, then said, “Call me—anytime.”
That didn’t happen very often, but it wasn’t rare, by any means. James looked at it, then looked back up at her and said, “Sure,” which was what he normally said when he had no intention of ever doing so.
By the time they’d finished their drinks, the plane was getting ready to be pushed back, and the same flight attendant stopped by and picked up their empty cups. James made sure she saw him keep the napkin which seemed much nicer than crumpling it up or handing it back to her.
She was an attractive woman, but he just wasn’t interested. Hooking up had always been a breeze, and James had done more than his fair share of it over the years. In fact, he’d done so much of it, that it had recently lost its charm.
He still had another semester of medical school plus residency to finish, but the thought of settling down was finally beginning to appeal to him. Just not with this pretty, young flight attendant.
“Here we go,” Miles said as the plane began to move.
“Are you excited, sir?” James asked him.
“Excited? No. Not really. I’d say the better word is ‘melancholy’.”
He didn’t offer any explanation, and James didn’t ask.
The flight attendant who’d greeted them was now asking for their attention as three other flight attendants stood in the aisles doing the safety demonstration. She was standing just in front of James, and he noticed her name tag said ‘Kimber’ on it. She was quite a bit older than the girl who’d served them, and yet he found her to be even more attractive. She had a kind of sophistication about her that James found interesting and appealing, and he also found himself staring at her without being aware he was.
At some point, Kimber glanced down at him and noticed. She held eye contact until he finally blinked before realizing he was being rude. He was grateful he’d been fixated on her pretty face rather than her ample breasts, which he could see quite well from just two feet away. Then again, he could see everything quite clearly including her very nice body and perfect…derriere.
James Kirk wasn’t a ‘butt guy’, but Kimber’s was unmistakably nice. Then again, everything about her seemed nice. Very nice, indeed.
He was trying to think of who she reminded him of, but it wouldn’t come to him. Although her dark hair was up he could tell it was at least shoulder length. She also had a beautiful smile, and two very kissable lips, and that’s when it hit him.
Kimber looked like a younger Anne Hathaway in a movie he’d watched back in 2008 called Passengers in which, ironically, she and the male lead had both died in a plane crash. The resemblance was strong, but it wasn’t quite accurate as Kimber was, in his opinion, at least, even more attractive than the actress had been in the movie ten years ago.
After getting caught with his eyes in the cookie jar (to mix metaphors), he made sure not to do more than glance at her as she continued running through the script. James was wondering how many times she’d done that over the years as she rattled off one line after the other without a hitch.
His thoughts were interrupted when she lowered her left arm, and right in front of his nose was a very large diamond ring on her hand.
“How did I miss that?” James said to himself just as he heard Kimber say something that interrupted that thought.
“Ladies Ankara escort bayan and gentlemen. We have a true hero on board our flight today. Sitting next to me on my left is Mr. Miles Stewart, a WWII veteran heading to Washington DC to meet the Secretary of the Air Force. So please show your appreciation to this man who made it possible for all of us to live in freedom.”
The plane virtually exploded in the loudest applause James could ever remember as he enthusiastically joined in.
“Is that for me?” Miles asked as he tried to turn his brittle body around.
“Yes, sir. And well deserved,” James told him.
He raised a hand in the air that was nearly purple, the skin so thin it almost looked like wax paper.
“I wish I could tell ’em about my buddies who didn’t make it home,” Miles said as he leaned over once the noise quieted down.
James wasn’t sure, but it looked like the old veteran’s eyes might be a little misty. If they were it was understandable. James had no idea what war was like, and hoped he never would. That men like this had borne the burden for him was a thing for which he’d always be grateful.
The plane taxied to the runway, and the pilot said, “Flight attendants. Prepare for takeoff.”
James was wondering what was going through Miles’s mind as the big jet lifted off. What kinds of memories did it bring back? What emotions did it stir up?
Little could he know that Miles instinctively turned to look outside the plane for German fighters like the one that had mortally wounded the bomber he was flying in the last time he’d been airborne. He’d fired off hundreds of rounds at the German Messerschmitt, and thought he’d hit it when he realized his plane had taken several rounds. Smoke began pouring out, and the bomber quickly began losing altitude.
At some point during the trip to DC, James dozed off. He awoke to hear a female voice say, “Mind if I sit down by you, handsome?”
As he opened one eye, he expected to see the flight attendant who’d given him her number. Instead he saw Kimber smiling, not at him, but at Miles Stewart.
“Oh, well, sure. I suppose that’d be all right,” he said.
“Excuse me,” she told James as she slid into the middle seat.
He tried not to laugh when Miles said, “I’m single young lady, but I’m not available. When my Claudette passed away, that was it for me.”
When Kimber replied, his smile faded more quickly than it had appeared.
“I’m so sorry, sir. I lost my husband, Michael, three years ago, and I often wonder if there’ll ever be anyone else, so I definitely understand.”
“Well, you’re still young and right pretty, young lady, so don’t give up hope just yet,” he advised her.
She sat there and talked with him for nearly half an hour then said, “Well, I’ve got to start making the rounds. That food won’t serve itself.”
She stood up then said, “It was such a pleasure getting to know you. If you change your mind and need a date tomorrow, I’m staying at the Sheraton.”
That was the same hotel James and Miles were staying at, but it didn’t dawn on him right there.
It took Miles a second to understand, but when he did, he smiled the best he could and said as he pointed toward the heavens, “If my Claudette wasn’t up there waitin’ for me, I just might take you up on that.”
Kimber smiled and said, “I’m sure I couldn’t hold a candle to her.”
She put a hand on his frail shoulder and said, “Good luck, and again, thank you for all you did for our country.”
“I’m not the hero, you know. The heroes are the ones that didn’t come home. Like the boys on my flight that day.”
Kimber nodded understandingly then excused herself. As she passed by, James mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
She smiled and quietly said, “That was nothing but pure pleasure.”
She stopped, leaned down, then asked, “He’s not your grandfather or anything, is he?”
“Oh, no. We’d never met before this morning at the airport,” James told her.
“I wasn’t sure, so thanks for letting me know. And thank you for doing this. I’m sure he’s very grateful.”
She went to move away, but before she did, James said, “I couldn’t help but overhear what you said, and I just wanted to say I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.”
“And like Mr. Stewart said, don’t give up. You’re not just a ‘looker’, you’re obviously a very caring person.”
He said it sincerely but in a concerned, lighthearted way. Even so, he couldn’t really tell how she took his words.
“I’ll be right back with your meals, okay?” she said without responding to his comment.
When she got up front, she was still only a few feet away, so James heard the other flight attendant who’d hit on him say to Kimber, “Isn’t he gorgeous?”
“He’s a little old for me,” Kimber said, pretending the other woman was referring to Mr. Stewart.
“No! Not the geezer. The hunky guy sitting next to him. I’d love to welcome him to the mile-high Escort Ankara club right here, right now,” she said without taking her eyes off of James.
“Don’t you have something to do back in economy?” Kimber said politely but firmly.
“Okay, okay. I’m going. But if he’d ‘do’ me, I definitely wouldn’t be going. I’d be…coming. And coming. And…”
Kimber gave her a stern look, and the younger woman disappeared with a roll of the eyes.
Kimber took another quick peek at the ‘hunky’ guy and realized her young colleague was right. He was very good looking, and he obviously had a giving nature. However, Kimber never dated passengers—or pilots—so it was nothing but a glance. For that matter, he was way too young. But he was definitely very attractive.
As they got off the plane at Reagan National Airport in Washington DC, Kimber gave Miles a hug and wished him all the best. He thanked her and said again to James, “I told ya. That one’s a looker!”
James smiled, thanked Kimber, and said, “I guess I’ll see you around.”
She smiled back and said, “Take care.”
And with that Kimber, the flight attendant whose last name he still didn’t know, was history.
They took a shuttle to the Sheraton Hotel where someone from the Pentagon waiting to make sure Mr. Stewart had arrived and knew where to go the following morning.
“Well, I don’t know where that is, but I’m sure my babysitter here can find it,” the crusty old veteran told him.
The Air Force NCO repeated the location to James and told him it was just a couple of turns away to get to the memorial. Realizing there could be a problem he told James he’d be there at 1300 hours, or 1pm, the following day to pick them up.
“Blue staff car. Right out front,” the master sergeant told him.
“We’ll be there,” James told him.
Miles was exhausted and need to lay down after eating a light dinner. He was out within minutes and asleep until 7am which was 4am West Coast time, his normal time for waking up. James heard him in the room next to his, but fell back asleep until nine/six, his normal time to get up.
James showered, got dressed, then knocked on Miles’s door.
“Morning, sir. How’d you sleep?”
“Oh, not bad, I suppose.”
“Have you had breakfast yet?” James asked.
“No. I thought I had to wait for you,” Miles told him. He was starving, but men like him didn’t make waves. They just grinned and bore it.
James took him downstairs where there was still plenty of food out, and the two of them talked about the upcoming ceremony and their return flight home the following morning.
Miles was very interested in seeing the memorial, but had no real interest in being honored or meeting this ‘young whippersnapper’ who was temporarily in charge of the Air Force.
“But I’ll do it for my buddies,” Miles told him.
They finished eating then went back upstairs, and James helped Miles with the TV remote. Once he was all set, he went back to his room to relax. Actually, he had some studying to do even though he was on his Thanksgiving break, and since everything was online, he pulled his iPad out and went to work.
At 12:45, he got Miles ready and they went back downstairs where the same Air Force master sergeant was waiting for them. He opened the door for Mr. Stewart then went around to the driver’s seat and got in. As they headed for the memorial, he briefed the honoree on what would happen.
Miles didn’t understand most of it. All he knew was this VIP would say some nice things, shake his hand, and ask him if he had anything to say. Then they’d lay a wreath together and that would be it for the official part.
It only took a few minutes to make the short trip from the hotel to the memorial, where a modest-sized crowd had gathered along with TV cameras from some of the local news stations.
James followed Miles and the airman, who introduced his honored guest to two other WWII veterans who, unknown to James or Miles, were also there. One was a former Army medic who survived D-Day, and the other was a Marine who took part in the battle of Okinawa, the last major battle in the Pacific.
This time it was James fighting back misty eyes as the men embraced. One of them was wheelchair-bound, and his hands shook as he raised his arms to give Miles a brotherly hug. It made no difference what they’d been seven decades ago. All that mattered was the common bond they shared.
They spoke for several minutes, and James couldn’t help but notice none of them bragged or patted themselves on the back. Everything was about their friends who never made it home.
“Gentlemen?” the air force NCO said. “We need to take our places. The Secretary will be here in five minutes.”
He helped the elderly veterans get to their places of honor at the reviewing stand then stood at parade rest while they waited. James found a place along one side and waited respectfully.
He looked around and wasn’t surprised he didn’t know another soul, so he was very surprised when someone came up from behind and said, “I thought I might find you here.”
He looked over and saw Kimber’s smile and he couldn’t help but smile back.
“What a pleasant surprise,” he said as she stood alongside him.
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