Memorial Day (Sticky - Scroll For Newer Posts)
We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?
~ Wilfrid Wilson Gibson
Back in the summer of the last '68, I was doing my military service down in Texas, which, next to the Bronx, is the place I'd most like to be from. For several months, I was assigned to the base's funeral detail. We would provide pallbearers and a rifle squad for those requesting military funerals in the local area.
Military-wise, it wasn't bad duty. On the days when we weren't scheduled for a funeral, we would spend several hours practicing our "drill & ceremonies" and a couple more squaring away our uniforms and equipment. On funeral days, we would head out as early as necessary on a 44-passenger bus, often in civilian clothes or else fatigues with our first-class uniforms and equipment in tow. Often we would change into our duty uniforms at the funeral home, once in the casket display room, or on the bus itself.
It being Texas and the Viet Nam war being in full swing, we often had several funerals a week to perform. There was a certain spectrum from the World War graduates through the Viet Nam casualties. The former might involve a local veterans' group and an afterward BBQ or such. The latter were somewhat more emotionally raw as most of us were facing our own deployments in the near future.
Two funerals of the latter sort have stayed with me through the years. The first was of a young Private First Class who had been MIA for several months before his remains were recovered. I was on the pallbearer squad that day and when we went to lift the casket, it almost flew up in the air. There was so little of the young soldier left that we totally overestimated the weight we were lifting and almost looked decidedly unprofessional.
The other was that of a Negro Specialist 4th Class. I was in the rifle squad that day. In the rendering of military honors, there is a momentary pause between the end of the (21-gun) rifle salute and the beginning of the playing of "Taps". It is a moment of profound silence in most cases. During that moment, the young soldier's mother gave out a yowl from the depths of her grief that so startled me that I almost dropped the rifle out of my hands. That yowl echoes within me still.
I'll readily admit that, as a result of my experiences, I became much imbued with a sense of duty and respect to and for our fallen. Hopefully, today, when our media do their reporting they will show some of the same and let "Taps" be played out in its entirety. It would be nice for a change.
Posted by: 11B40 at May 25, 2014 09:27 PM
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