Aug 17, 2005

Some Somber Reflection

Well, I must have made somebody angry. That's the only way I can figure it because today I re-injured my knee. I got blindsided during a tackling drill, mid-stride. So my body went with the direction of the hit, and my right leg stayed firmly planted, torquing my knee. So know I can barely walk without suffering through excruciating pain. But hey, at least i made it through practice while a bunch of other guys went to the sidelines to ice injuries far less severe than mine. So, I think it's ofiicial, I'm either tougher than I thought, or I am stoo stupid to realize I need to get off my feet.

If you frequent this blog, then you probably know that I want to go into the military when I am older, hopefully to fly planes. If you didn't know, then you do now. Anyway, that's just a little background information. I've covered the topic of why i want to serve many a time before. The most exhaustive and in my opinion, best, being found HERE. Well, tonight I want to talk about something different, but still related to that topic. As I was perusing the various blogs that I read, I came across a few posts that got me thinking along the lines of service. The first being one from Uncle Jimbo. He wrote a letter from Casey Sheehan to his mom, I think you should read it. It's very poignant and tugs deeply at the heartstrings. I then fell upon one of Goldfalcon's posts about how the military takes care of its own.

That brought me to my first, and I hope only(though I know that's not going to be the case), military funeral. Last August, around this time, my grandfather passed away. While my family had known this was coming, due to his failing health, it didn't hit us any lighter. My grandfather had put in twenty-one years in the Army Air Corps and later United States Air Force, serving honorably and with distinction in World War II and Korea. It was decided on very quickly that he was to have a funeral with full military honors. So, I, along with my mother and father, made the journey back to Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina, where numerous generations of my kin are buried and where many more of my living relatives reside.

I wanted to pay tribute to my grandfather the best I could. So I wore my best Class A Blues, complete with marksmans badge and CAC shoulder chord. I had hoped to be in the real, honest-to-God military when he finally took the last flight home, so I could show him that I had taken my place in the long line of veterans in my family. That I had filled in my place in our proud military tradition and heritage. But I'll never get the chance. So I did what I could to honor the man who instilled in me my dream to serve and love of country. And the more I think about and look back on the time we spent together, the more I realize what a profound effect he had on me.

The day of the funeral was absolutely beautiful. It was hot and humid, but there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was decided that I along with my cousins would act as pallbearers, and I carried his casket with as much military bearing and solemn dignity as I could muster. It was the best I could do. I also delivered a eulogy. I tried my best to say what I thought was most representative of the man I knew as my Papa. A man of honor, who loved God, his family, his country, and the land from whence he came, and to which he was returned. He loved to fly, and most of all, he loved life. To this day I don't know how I managed through it without crying, but I was told that there wasn't a dry eye in the room when I was done. After the church services, we moved outside to the church's cemetery where my grandfather was laid to rest. This where the local American Legion honor guard took to its duties. I stood at rigid attention throughout most of it, as it was the only thing I could do to keep myself from crying over the loss of one of my heroes.

The commander, who was also a chaplain, delivered a beautiful sermon, and said some very kind words about my grandfather. But the greatest honor he bestowed his friend and compatriot, was to fold the American flag draped across my grandfather's casket and present it to my grandmother. I have nevere held a salute longer, with less discomfort as I did when "Pre-SENT. . . ARMS!" was called. I watched as the flag was folded; with the tenderest care, as if it was a child. Some of the kindest words on behalf of my Papa, came when the flag was presented to his wife. They went like this, "On behalf of the president of the United States and a very grateful country, I present with this flag." After that came the most beautiful version of Taps I think I have ever heard. It nearly brought me to tears, but the crack of the M1 Garands quickly got my attention. The first volley that was fired nearly made me jump out of my skin. The gun salute seemed almost endless, each shot resonating through the thick summer air. I'm sure it could be heard for miles around. After the final salute, as is the custom, each pallbearer passed in front of the casket to pay their final respects and place their corsages upon the casket. When it was my turn, I slowly walked in front of it, placed my corsage on top, said a very quiet prayer and good-bye, and rendered my Papa with one of the best, most-textbook, crispest salute I could. It was my final salute to him. A final good-bye.

Soon after all of the pallbearers said good-bye, the pastor delivered burial rites, and in the middle of it, a group of cows in the pasture next door decidd to start mooing. It was almost as if the cows were paying their final respects to an old farmboy. I thought it fitting. The pastor then finished the burial, and the funeral was over.

And so ended my first involvment in a military funeral. I hope that I will not have to attend many more. But if I do, then I will happily do my best to furnish the utmost dignity and respect due to a servicemen who received his fiinal discharge papers.And one day, in the near future, when I am in the military, I will return graveside, to let Major Ned Miller, USAF(ret.) know that I have picked up the sword and shield to protect what I believe in and to do my duty. To take my place in history.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

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