8 July, 1873
The white headstones, row after row of them, stood in almost military formation under the hot summer sun. Shadows from the trees fell upon them in places, offering shade. These shadows played across the face of the man walking up one of the paths of the cemetery.
He wore a blue coat and forage cap, his graying hair peeking out from under it, symbols of his service to the nation in a war not ten years over. His face was lined with hardship and the memories of what he'd seen and done. He scanned the stones to either side as he walked, before smiling slightly and moving towards a row on his left.
"Well, Myles," he greeted, "Been awhile since we last spoke, aye? I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner, but at least it's quieter now." The crowds that had come a week earlier were gone, and the man preferred it that way. Groaning as he eased himself to the ground by the headstone, he continued speaking to his friend, his light Irish brogue filling the warm air. "And I've been discharged, did you know that? I stayed on for a few more years after the war, and in '68, they said I'd done my bit." He chuckled wryly. "To open up a space in th' ranks for a younger man than meself, I suppose. But I don't mind.
"Things've changed since we were last here," he noted, his gaze drifting around the grounds. "Not just the absence of cannon fire, either. There's statues of all sorts most everywhere you look…
"But you don't need a statue for yourself. If they tried, you'd knock it down, and I might help, too." He laughed again.
He stayed beside the grave for several more minutes, the one-sided conversation strangely companionable. For he knew exactly what his friend would say if he had been there physically. The two had grown up together, faced famine and war together, and lived and loved and lost.
Finally, he fell silent, the only sound the breeze rustling the leaves above his head. With another soft groan, he stood, reflecting that his age was catching up to him. Closing his eyes, Eoin O'Connell said a silent prayer, making the Sign of the Cross, before going back to the path.
The dancing shadows of the leaves highlighted the name on the gravestone behind him.
20th ME Infantry
July 3rd, 1863