Kathleen A. Klatte
Feedback and commentary are most welcome.
Disclaimer: The West Wing is the property of NBC, et al; this is a recreational endeavor,
no profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Inspired by events in "20 Hours in LA"
"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the
soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the
campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who
salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin draped by the flag, who
allows the protestor to burn the flag."
Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
It was raining. A cold, soaking rain that chilled everyone to the bone...everyone who had
gathered this day to pay final honor to a courageous young woman who'd died in the line
of duty. President Josiah Bartlet seemed to have aged years in the past two days. His face
was lined with weariness as he stood beside his daughter.
Zoe's face was pale, and one arm rested in a sling. The injury had occurred when her
bodyguard had shoved her out of the way of a speeding bullet. Gina hadn't meant to push
so hard - it was the impact of the bullet that had done that.
Charlie Young stood in his customary place, one pace behind the First Family, wondering
for the hundredth time if this was really his fault. They'd all assured him that it wasn't -
that no one was to blame but the creep who'd pulled the trigger - but still, he wondered.
Would ZoŽ have been a target if she hadn't been going out with him? And why didn't
they just take a shot at him, instead of an innocent teenaged girl?
'Because they're cowards,' a voice seemed to whisper. Charlie heard that voice every
once in a great while, when he was feeling particularly low. He liked to think that it was
his mom, still looking out for him. She was right of course, just as he remembered. The
guy who'd done this was a small-minded punk with nothing but hatred in his heart -
someone who'd never learned the lessons of tolerance, and honor, and courage. Not like
Charlie took a half-step closer to ZoŽ. As if sensing his nearness, she reached back and
insinuated one small hand into his own.
Jed Bartlet noticed when his daughter reached out to Charlie, and he was glad. Charlie
was a good man, and that was all that mattered to him. He watched attentively as the
minister concluded his blessing and the honor guard stepped into place. Although he had
no military background himself, he recalled Gina telling him that she'd been an Army
officer before assuming her post, and he had personally arranged for her to be buried all
He watched as the honor guard reverently lifted the flag from her coffin in their white-
gloved hands and began to fold it, every move precisely choreographed and emanating
respect both for the deceased, and the symbol of the nation that she had served.
He watched them lift the flag from the polished wooden casket of a brave young woman
who'd given her life to protect his daughter, and he thought about some punk setting a
match to it. Bile rose in his throat. He thought about the proposed amendment to the
Constitution and a calm resolution filled him. Burn the flag? No way. Not if he had
anything to say about it.