November 16, 2009
Joe and I just returned from the funeral of a young marine killed in Afghanistan.
At the end of the funeral, the Marine’s father went up to the casket and tapped on it. Then he escorted the young widow out.
After the church funeral, we went outside for the military proceedings.
It was completely silent standing outside. The only sound was the giant American flag blowing in the wind. And the very hungry stomach of a person nearby. No one spoke.
I could hear repeated taps. I couldn’t see what it was at first. Then I realized the taps were the feet of the Marines who were carrying the casket. Small, short, quick and precise steps in unison. Each made with exactness.
As the flag was lifted off the casket, Joe pinched the back of my thigh and said, “behind us.” (He was still standing at “attention” so he wasn’t supposed to move or speak.) When I turned around I saw and heard the 21-gun salute. And then the bugle played Taps. Perfectly. All the while the flag was being held in the air by two Marines.
After the song, they proceeded to fold the flag. As they slowly folded the flag that lie on the top of the casket, the marines took turns saluting the folded flag.
I strained my neck to see Marines taking ribbons/medals off their own uniforms to place on top of the casket. They were gathered up and given to the family.
The Marines carried the casket, with their calculated steps, to the hearse. The Patriot Guard led the hearse out of town with a police escort. The sights and sounds of the motorcycles starting up and leaving were incredibly moving.
(the giant flag hoisted by a crane)
I had learned about the life of this marine before and during the funeral. The main theme reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) While under heavy gunfire, this marine ordered the other marines to take cover. His life was taken as he spared the lives of others. And it wasn't his first time. He was awarded his third Purple Heart posthumously.