A uniform is the most important thing a soldier can own. It can show who they are, their rank, their personality, what they're fighting for, or what they're passionate about. A uniform is a symbol of strength and unity. It shows that you're part of something bigger, something with a cause. You fight together with your teammates towards a similar goal. Even if the uniform is a simple pin or bracelet or jacket, it holds a lot of weight with it. It can be the thing that symbolizes your entire life. Every crease or imperfection is special and differs with each one.
Sometimes, your uniform is the last thing that's left of you.
Oh, Marco, the bloodstains on your uniform won't come out. I've tried washing it over and over but the brown jacket stays stained red. It's not like there's much to was anyway since half of it was brutally ripped off, but I didn't want to present it to your family in such a terrible condition. I guess there's just not much that I can do.
Everyone unanimously decided that I should be the one to break the news to your family since I was the one that was closest to you. Only when I had to meet your family did I realize that you never told me anything about them. I had no idea what to expect. You barely told me about your life at home. I now wish I'd gotten to know you better. That has to be my deepest regret.
I was to meet your family in less than an hour, so I stuffed what was left of your uniform into a bag and started out to the stables. I had to go alone. I was kinda glad for that, I wouldn't want anyone to see me cry like how I knew I would. Getting on my horse, I followed the directions to your home given to me by Shadis.
Throughout the entire journey, my nervousness steadily increased. I wasn't ready to face them. I was still a bit in shock myself. I wouldn't be able to comfort your mother if she cried or keep my own tears at bay. How do you tell someone that their son/brother/nephew won't be coming back home when he was barely even out of training? Anyone would miss your friendly and cheerful personality that would brighten up anyone's mood with just a smile.
At the age of 15, they would agree that your death came prematurely. We're all just kids trained to kill monsters yet we're still not old enough to know who the real monsters are.
All too soon, I stopped at what the directions indicated was your house. I got off the horse and tied it up to one of the posts on the side of the road. The house was not very big but from the outside, it was a comfy dwelling. Flowers were growing on the front yard of all kinds of colors and images of a ten-year-old Marco happily watering the flowers while wearing a big straw hat came into my mind. The thought makes me smile and forget the heart-wrenching task at hand for a second.
I make it to the doorstep with my heart in my throat. I raised a shaking fist and knocked hesitantly on the wooden door. Saluting with my fist on my chest, the bag on my back seemed heavier. The door opened suddenly and a little girl around the age of eight looked up at me with a curious gaze. The speech that had run through my head over and over suddenly escaped my thoughts as I stared at a small female version of you. She had long dark hair that reached her waist, freckles scattered all over her cheeks, but most importantly, she had huge sparkling eyes filled with a natural urge to socialize.
"Are you one of big brother's soldier friends?" she says questioningly then almost yells excitedly, "Is he coming home?! I'll go get momma!"
She disappears with a smile and I break the salute to choke back a sob with my hand over my mouth. Tears start sliding down my cheeks as I feel the backpack weigh me down. I can't believe you never told me you had a little sister, Marco. She thinks you're coming back home but instead, she's getting a stained piece of fabric and a dead sibling. A child so young shouldn't have to deal with death. She needs her brother, her role model, and her story-teller. She needs you.
I try to wipe away the traces of my crying and resume the salute when I hear footsteps coming to the door. A middle-aged woman with a kind face comes back to the door; the little girl at her heals. She takes one look at my grief-stricken face and ushers me inside with a tug on my elbow.
"Come inside." She urges then addresses the girl, her voice wavering, "Lillian, go to your room."
The little girl trudges to her room while her mother stands in what I believe is the dining room just carefully watching me, tears welling up in her eyes. I decide this is a good time as any to formally explain my presence here.
"M-Marco Bodt, ranked 7th in the graduating trainee corps, died in Trost after the wall was breached by the Colossal Titan. He died mysteriously with no witnesses of his demise. My name is Jean Kirschtein. I was a close friend of Marco's and I can tell you that I genuinely am sorry for your loss."
I manage to get the words out before I start to cry again. I hate how formal it sounded but I couldn't think of anything else to say. She breaks down and starts to weep silently while collapsing on an old couch. I break from the salute once more to wipe my face with my sleeve. I reach behind me and grab the ripped up jacket from the backpack. I wordlessly hand it to her. She clutches the tattered material and I make my way outside. I'm pulling open the door when she chokes out, "Thank you, Jean."
I let out a sob and nod before walking out with an empty feeling in my heart. You'll be missed, Marco.
.: 7 years later :.
I stand with the rest of the Special Operations squad and take in the new recruits who decided to commit suicide by joining the Survey Corps. We go down the line, asking for their names and as they state them, they salute. I almost bite my tongue when I hear a strong, female voice state "Lillian Bodt" and look up to see a familiar freckled face and the same beautiful brown eyes I had lost all those years ago staring straight at me.