Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Angel Flight

This was the view from the window on my plane, last weekend:

Photo credit: Borepatch

I'll reproduce here what I liveblogged from my phone:
My flight to Detroit just touched down.  The flight attendants came on the PA asking everyone to remain seated when we reach the gate, so some soldiers returning back to Afghanistan.

Everyone clapped.  Everyone.

Then the Captain came on.  He said we were taking a fallen soldier home.  You could have heard a pin drop.

God Speed, whoever you are.  I can't imagine any thanks can possibly fill the void your family feels.

We're at the gate, and the plane is clapping for the soldiers again.  Out the window, you can see the cars lined up on the tarmac for our fallen hero.  Everyone' crowded around the windows.

It feels like you're in church - that you're in the presence of something holy.
There was a boy no older than ten a couple rows in front of me.  When he saw this, he took off his baseball cap:

Photo credit: Borepatch

All weekend long I had the song running through my head that I posted on Tuesday:

All weekend I thought on what I'd written about how hard the Honor Guard duty must be:
This must be a tough duty, spending all day, every day welcoming home fallen veterans.  It must take a special sort of personality to be continually surrounded by grieving families, and to take that grief as an inspiration to perfect the ceremony.  The respect they showed - especially to Mom - was very moving.

It's strange, but after months leading up to Dad's death, and three weeks now to process the emotions, that I wasn't ready for the emotions that washed over me when the guard slow-saluted Mom, and then knelt down to present her the flag.

This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.

The Honor Guard has a hard duty, and one that may seem unimportant.  After all, it's just one more old man leaving his grieving family behind.  The kindness and respect they devoted speaks volumes of them, and the Republic.
This is the final test of a gentleman: his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.
- William Lyon Phelps
Last weekend wasn't an old man coming home to lie with his brothers, it was someone in the flush of youth.  Someone who didn't get the chance to bury his father; on the contrary, someone whose father met him on the tarmac on his last flight.

I look on this Republic, and wonder how it can possibly live up to that sacrifice.  And then I look at that ten year old boy on the plane, just some random kid on a vacation flight, taking his cap off as a sign of respect, and thanks.  And I look at all the other passengers who would normally be crowding the aisle to get off the flying bus that brought them where they ended up.  All crowded around the windows.  I don't expect that many will ever forget that moment.

I sure won't.

Feels kinda like Church in here tonight.  Thanks to Libertyman for pointing out this song.  I posted it once, but this time it was up close and personal.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Sir, whoever you are, I'm honored to have been flying with a hero that night.


Marty said...

Got some dust in my eye...

Bob said...

Beautiful post. I especially liked the part about the boy taking off his cap. Did he do that on his own, do you think, or at the prodding of a parent? If on his own, then he was well raised.

Borepatch said...

Bob, it was entirely on his own.

LSP said...

Thanks for that - what a good post.

Guffaw in AZ said...

I'm linking to your blog for this, today, Borepatch.
Thank you for sharing it.
Obviously, Marty and I are cut from the same cloth.

ASM826 said...

Thanks, Borepatch. One of your best.

cowchip said...

Look for a movie called Taking Chance, if you haven't seen it already. Kevin Bacon plays a officer accompanying a soldier's remains home. Awesome movie. Enjoy your blog, keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I recommend buying the movie, "Taking Chance". With Kevin Bacon.

-But you must gird yourself for the inevitable emotions that will come to the fore.


Odysseus said...

We are not worthy of such men yet they serve us anyway.

Paul, Dammit! said...

My father's funeral mass and the interment ceremony was kind of a blur-one of the only clear memories I have was the moment when the honor guard member presented my mother with the flag.