Gold Star Dad

The thoughts of a father who has lost a son to war

The final days of farewell

Posted by fozzynok on 08/11/2009

I am the first to admit that I’m an odd duck and that I do not generally like people especially strangers and really not in large doses. No one is really experienced in deaths of their family members but a few of the traditions I do not accept for I find them to be totally self-serving and frankly ghoulish. I with my wife had to make decisions about things regarding the final days of my son’s real existence on the face of this planet. From the first day we had to meet with the funeral director, it seemed all too easy as my wife Angelia and I have been over so many roads and trails as one, that there was no second decisions or really hard choices. We were informed basically how odd that was by the director. We knew what we wanted this to be without even really discussing any of this. My wife was the main thing in my life that really made this time bearable and kept me as strong as I was and had to be during these days.

The visitation was Monday evening. This was something that I had originally set my mind on doing without. The community reaction and some long thoughts about it caused me to change my mind about it. We had a visitation and it was as good as these things go. I figured that I was being selfish after all and frankly I’m glad that I decided to change this plan.  The funeral home had asked for photos of Micheal throughout his life. We also provided a CD with music to be played for the time of the visitation. I picked some rather unconventional music that my son got me into. Anyone ever hear of Drop Kick Murphy? They are basically an Irish Punk rock band. I chose three songs by them to play for my son. Amazing Grace, A Cadence to Arms and the Warrior Code. They all were songs that my son and l shared and enjoyed and when he was home last. Had I been able to find the title song from the Movie “The Boondock Saints” I would have played that as well. When this song plays, I instantly can see my son and feel his strength.

We had the visitation open and arrived as it opened and stayed well after the last family member left the area. It started snowing heavily during the visitation. This was almost eerie!  I finally got to meet the fine young man who escorted my son home to us.  I don’t really know where he was when we brought Micheal into town. Another soldier from my son’s unit was there also. I never thought that I would stay for more than a few moments but the time and the guests just made the night something that was to important and so full of people and emotions that the time escaped all of us. I met several of the local patriot guard group and the local Army reserve motorcycle group. The visitors came and went. During this visitation I was given my son’s dog tags, his Combat Infantry Badge and several gold star pins for the family.

March 4th was the day we buried my son, the ceremony was something so surreal and so emotional to behold and was touching in so many ways. The fact is that honestly of all the days before and the days following, this is the day I have the fewest actual recollections from. I’m not sure if it was shock, depression, pride or abject remorse. I got through this day unlike those before. I had to bury my son this day and I had to do it front of close to a thousand people looking on. Any thoughts of doing this privately were done away with during the first days when the town mourned for and with us and shared the grief of a lost son.

The Army unit from Ft. Sill that handled this was fantastic through all of it. My son came home and brought rain, tornado’s a huge thunderstorm on Sunday and a darned near blizzard of snow on Monday! We got about 3 inches of snow the night of the visitation. It seems that we got all of the seasons except the one that I dislike and that was the furnace like heat from this place.

We awoke to brilliant blue skies and warmer temps. The funeral was today at 1400. The members of the patriot guard again escorted us to the cemetery. They were all over the place and were the standard bearers for numerous flags. When we got within sight distance of the cemetery, I was extremely moved. We almost could not get into the gate! There were hundreds of people to see Pokey off and wish him well on his next journey. The ceremony was proper military fare, short and sweet. His Chaplin was a VERY sharp fellow who was Korean. I loved having him speak over Pokey. He did a great job and added that Army family flavor. The rest of the ceremony was full military also. The hardest parts to get through were known and expected by me. The medals that my son was awarded, the flag folding and presentation were helped in a way by the fact that a very experienced Major General who presented each also had tears in his eyes and could barely speak. The 21-gun salute was there and the playing of taps was very hard. This was like some movie that you knew the ending too, but didn’t want it too.  But we as a family “closed ranks” held on to each other and continued to live and breathe. The final act of the color guard that I could witness was the color guard loading up the now bare casket into the hearse for the short trip into the cemetery and the gravesite. I could not do that. I may end up in some sort of hell for that.. but there ya go.

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