Thursday, January 24, 2008

Behind the curtain.

When the bugler played Taps at my fathers funeral and the Marine handed my mother the flag with the words, "On behalf of a greatful nation..." that flag represented a lot to me. It took on, at that point, a sacred nature that it cannot lose. Like all things sacred, however, I did not stop to think that it had, until that moment, been just another flag.

I have recieved my first extra duty tasking as an officer today. I am now the Officer in Charge of Funeral Details. I was (and am, really) happy with my tasking. I have a friend whose job is to ensure that all supply closets are properly labeled and stocked (powders go on the higher shelves than liquids so if there is a spill, there is no inadvertant chemical mixing). So, this tasking is one which, even though time consuming (Texas has a lot of veterans and Soldiers...we had three funerals this week), it is also one which will give me sense of pride in accomplishment when it is over.

I went to the "Grievance Support Center" to recieve what I thought would be intense training, not dissimilar to what I imagine the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier get. Upon entering, I find a room with half a dozen Soldiers, three larger civilian women, a stack of bugles and a large stack of folded flags.

The Soldiers were sitting around in jackets (it was a very cold day), one of whom had assumed a seated position with his head hanging backwards, drooping, like a third grader held in from recess, and was complaining about having to do another funeral. The lady closest to the door reached behind her desk to the flag stack without looking, grabbed one, handed it to the Sergeant and said, "Take this and a bugle and a DVD."

The DVD was the extent of the training I recieved.

I was, at first, shocked and disgusted at the attitude and callous nature with which things were handled until I was just their job. The flag, the bugle, even the soldiers themselves, were only special insofar as they were used at the funeral, and it was the association with the servicemember that his or her family and friends felt which made the flag I held in my hands special. It wasn't woven of sacred fiber, it wasn't packaged with love and care, and it wasn't built in any special manner. It was my father who was special, and his flag, which now resides in a reliquary in my room carved of dark wood and brass, is special because it was there at a special moment.

I am still proud to be a part of this, and I hope the ceremony will be special and as perfect as it was for my father the first time I represent the United States and say, "On behalf of a greatful nation..."

Wish me luck, as I'll be speaking for you.


Blogger moville said...

Does this mean that you lead the honor guard personally, or do you sit with the family as the army's representative? I've noticed in the funerals at Arlington that I watched from afar, it's usually a member of the casket team, maybe its leader, who presents the flag and says those moving words.

Also, if you wanted to, could you transfer to the "Old Guard," the units that guard the unknown soldier and conduct the military funerals in Arlington?

8:17 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

yes, I'm the one in charge of the detail when I go, I don't sit there. As for the Old Guard, that is a cermonial infantry unit. You have to be a certain height and in the infantry to be a part of it. I am both too short and in the wrong job. I have a friend who did it and said it was very rewarding though...hard hours, lots of work, but a great payoff too.

3:38 PM  
Blogger moville said...

Very's pretty much the same, i.e. infantrymen of roughly the same height, with the honor guard at the main war memorial in Moscow.

Good luck with that seem to have the sensitivity and the gravitas to perform it well.

10:50 AM  

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