Day by Day

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Too Young

I was part of another funeral detail today.

This soldier died because of an accident. A stupid accident. As far as I know, we're still losing more soldiers to accidents than we are to actual combat. I was NCOIC of the rifle team once again.

It's hard to lose anybody. I don't think there are adequate words in the English language for the sheer grief that the family and friends feel when they lose someone. But somehow, and I don't want to make light of anyone's grief, somehow I think it's worse when a person dies young because of a stupid accident. When my grandfather died, at the age of 93, I was able to console myself with the fact that he had lived a full, long life, got to do all the things he wanted to do. His funeral was less about mourning than it was a celebration of his life and everything he accomplished. But this woman was younger than I was. She hadn't had a real chance to live yet.

And after all, a funeral is for the living. You can try to dispute that all you want, but the dead don't care. They are beyond the physical realm, and I don't think they care if their casket cost five grand or ten grand, so long as people honor what they did in life. But the living need the ceremony of a funeral. There is a great history behind a military funeral, but one of the most important things that the ceremony provides is a living reminder that WE DO NOT FORGET. It's in the Soldier's Creed: I will never leave a fallen comrade behind. The military funeral is part of that creed. When the family and friends see the soldiers standing at Parade Rest with their rifles, or marching to the hearse to accept the body and carry it to the final resting place, the family, the living family sees that their loved one is not forgotten. It shows the family that their loved one MEANT something. They had a purpose, and people remember their loved one in a significant way. And there is a finality in a twenty-one gun salute that cannot be described. It is a literal expression of "Your job is done. Lay down your burden and let us take up the flag."

It has to be experienced to be understood.

Let me just say now that I do not want to be buried. I want to be cremated, preferably in the Viking style. Toss my body into a wooden boat, douse me with oil, push the boat into the ocean and light that sucker on fire. Instead of a tombstone, I want a marble and oak headstone that contains a cigar humidor and a tap that dispenses Guinness. Put it in the local Legion post or VFW.

I know this is kind of rambling, but I'm in a bit of an odd mindset right now. And I hope you can understand why I didn't post much today.

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