Sunday, May 29, 2011


The old woman's eyes were gray blue.  I remember this because she looked me in the eye and held my gaze as she lightly shook my hand and thanked me for what I had done for her husband and her family that day.  She walked down the line of soldiers and repeated her thanks to each of us.

I was the NCOIC for her husband's funeral detail.  I had heard her softly thank the Officer in Charge as she accepted the folded flag from him.  She was a lady such as has become rare in our world.  She spoke with a soft Southern accent that had none of the twang that is so easy to fall into.  From reading her husband's biography, I could see that she had lived just about everywhere the Army can send someone with their family after marrying her husband early in his career.  She had followed him through several tours of Europe and myriad domestic bases, both to places that I remember fondly and to places I cringe to think of.  She had taken care of her children and their home while he did multiple tours in Vietnam and at least one assignment to Korea.  She had obviously done something right with her kids, as two of them wore uniforms to the funeral, and two of the others had "Dr." in front of their names in the obituary.  The seats at the packed chapel that weren't filled with soldiers who had known and served with her husband were filled with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As she walked back to her sons and daughters to say their final goodbyes to the old soldier, I thought about how much of his life he had given to us.  His list of decorations included two medals for valor, each paired with a Purple Heart for wounds.  He had served in Vietnam and the first Gulf War, rising from an intelligence analyst with a line battalion S-2 to the command sergeant major of an intelligence battalion before retiring to a position with one of our contracting companies.  I met and worked with this man a few times both before and after his retirement, and while he was a gentle man, there was more iron in him than a cursory glance would find.  If he knew he was right, and he normally was, he never backed down.  In the few times he was wrong, he was quick to apologize and learn from his mistake.  Those who worked for him loved and respected him, and I never heard anything but praise for him.

Today, an entire generation of American men and women are on the same path this extraordinary man and his family took.  A military life, as a soldier, a spouse, or a child, is more difficult and yet more of an adventure than someone who hasn't gone through it can describe.  Many people and families crack under the strain, and some will shatter.  What is amazing is how many thrive and succeed.  In addition to those like me who did their time and got out, there are also those who walk onto a plane or ship after kissing their loved ones goodbye, but are carried off of another plane or ship with honors.  It is for these men and women that we pause today.

We should always remember what these people give up for us, and how their sacrifice makes our lives better.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
DaddyBear's Den by DaddyBear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at