Poem to Follow

Yesterday I attended a military funeral, my first, and the last one for the deceased, an Air Force Lt. Col, ret, who lived into his late 80’s, an old friend of my wife’s family, father to her best friend in childhood, a girl who died around age 9. Although he reportedly had anger issues, and despite being extra-fond of Rush Limbaugh, he was consistently friendly to me, my wife, and our kids.

If you compare a U.S. military cemetery with its civilian counterparts you’ll recognize that the former—practice makes perfect in this case—truly constitutes a democracy, where it’s pointless to pretend you can take any of it with you: grave markers uniform in design and size, all ranks mingled and distributed equally over the landscape in precisely dressed ranks and files.

The honor guard ceremony was wordless, ten minutes tops: 6 soldiers, 4 men, two women, one ceremoniously carrying a large flag packed tight into a triangle, which they slowly unfurled, stretched between them, refolded as before, stars facing outward, and presented to the widow, after which one of them stepped aside, played Taps movingly, and then they all marched off, having left us without much to say.

 

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