Bitter wind howled across the tarmac. She stood at attention, flanked by her father and her father-in-law.
Their Navy dress blue uniforms and coats did little to keep them warm. She did not care. The day was as cold as her heart.
Above the din of the stinging gusts, a voice called from the belly of the plane. "Honor Guard: ATTEN-HUT!" Eight Marines snapped to attention, a solitary shot that startled her.
The thudding of feet down the ramp sent chills colder than even the gale of the day down her back. The flag-draped casket floated between two lines of blue-clad Marines.
The color guard halted beside the hearse. Their flags writhed in the unrelenting arctic blast. It was all wrong.
She should have been on their porch at 1900 hours, sipping limeade in the balmy Florida winter. Not a chaplain colleague, not a Casualty Notification Officer.
But they were. The CNO spoke the words. She knew the words. She had said the words to other wives not long ago.
But today she could not remember any words past, "We regret to inform you that your husband, Major Nathaniel Thomas, has been killed in theater..."
Her body followed commands. Her heart stopped.
The honor guard slid the casket into the hearse. She slid to the ground.
The door closed, shutting the casket inside. The honor guard and the color guard retreated. She stayed on the ground.
The hearse retreated down the flight line.
Her father took her by one arm, her father-in-law by the other. They walked her to the car without words.
The wailing and groaning of the tempest said everything she could not say.
It was all wrong.