A small pavilion existed on the grounds, and a large gathering of people surrounded it as daylight dimmed on the horizon. John walked out into the yard and looked over the mass of people. He didn't know exactly how many were out there, but he could assume that most of the brigade was present.
A set of speakers crackled before a voice came over. “Testing, okay that's good. Actually turn it down a bit, yeah there.” It was the voice of Shawn Stephens. “Good night everyone. It's truly great to see the numbers we have here tonight. I know we're all very busy and so I'll keep this brief.
“Loyd Robertson. Loyd was a man who we could all call friend. He was funny, charitable and most of all; he was always ready to help someone in need. As a matter of fact, Loyd was doing just that early yesterday when he and his team were attacked on the outskirts of town.
“We all know how it is. We all know how fleeting life can be, especially in the rough where we are now, at the frontiers of civilization. We all miss our homes, and we all wish we could be with our families, but it's moments like this that should remind us what we're out here to do. We're here so that men like Loyd Robertson haven't died in vain. We're here to win back what is truly ours and rebuild a world we aren't afraid to bring children into.
“Loyd believed in this. He believed so strongly in it that he risked his life. He risked his life so that we could have hope again. He risked his life to save a life, a life that we have all learned about. A life that now stands just feet away from me,” Stephens said, pointing toward a figure in the darkness of the pavilion.
Michael walked forward, with Andrea in a wheelchair before him.
Stephens passed him the mic.
“Hello.” Michael said, the shakiness of his hands nearly audible.
The moment his voice was heard, the crowd surged. Whistles cut through the darkening day and cheers echoed across the schoolyard.
Michael was frozen, in disbelief for a moment as the noise continued.
Stephens took Michael's hand and pulled the mic toward his own mouth. “Let him speak,” said Stephens, and the crowd's cheers subsided.
Finally silence came, and it remained as Michael stood on the pavilion, unable to speak.
Stephens nudged him.
Michael turned around to Stephens and words were said that the crowd could not hear. When he turned back, he looked over the crowd once more before the mic finally caught the sound of him taking in a deep breath.
“I'm just a man,” Michael said to the silent crowd. “I'm no more important than Loyd Robertson and that's why it pains me so much to know that he died trying so hard to get me here. I have seen war, but for the most part it was from a birds eye view, hundreds of feet above the battlefields. I've never seen war the way you have seen it and from my brief experience yesterday, I know that you are truly heroes.
“I can't believe that you would need me to give you hope, because if anyone gives me hope it's you. If anyone deserves the title everyone keeps giving me, it's you: People who've suffered their entire lives for an idea they've never even known. People who, like Loyd Robertson, are ready and willing to lay down their lives for this idea.” Michael took a breath. “I don't mean to alarm you when I say that I am terrified. I listen to what is expected of me and I cringe at the fact that I don't feel I can even come close to accomplishing anything. But it's men like Loyd Robertson who make me realize that I have no choice but to do the best I can, because if I don't, then he died for nothing. I won't let that happen.”
The crowd cheered, but became silent quickly afterward as Micheal continued.
“I won't let that happen because even though I am not from this time, this is now my time. Loyd's sacrifice was the wax for the seal and I know now that I am bound here, to do what I can to change the future for the better. I won't make any promises, except for this one. I promise to lay down my life, just as Loyd did for me, to help you rebuild a world where your children can grow up in peace and prosperity. I need you to remember the terms of my promise, because I am just a man and I am fallible. I promise to help, with the best of my ability.
“I am not a messiah. I am not a super human. I am just a man. I bleed as easily as you do,” Michael pulled his sleeve to reveal the sutures in his arm. “I can't do this alone. If I make this promise I need you all to back me up. I need you all to remember who Loyd Robertson was, what he believed in and what he died for. I need you to remember that so that when the time comes and your children are bouncing happily on your lap, you can say thank you to the right person for the freedoms you enjoy. Because it's not me you'll be thanking. It's men like Loyd Robertson.” Michael turned to the picture at the center of the pavilion. “Thank you Loyd, for saving my life,” he said, after which he handed the mic back to Stephens.
The crowd erupted in applause and it took Stephens a few minutes to finally subdue the noise enough to speak over them. “Ladies and gentlemen. There will be a short reception in the mess hall where we can all enjoy beverages and a few treats the cooks have put together. I'd like it if we could all move there in an orderly fashion. Take this time to remember Loyd Robertson, share stories or just talk about his dreams and ambitions so that we may all better remember him and keep his memory alive within us. Thank you and good night.”
The crowd dispersed slowly as everyone filtered back into the school.