This one kind of rambles. I apologize up front!
It’s been a horrible time lately for Oklahoma and the military family here. Oklahoma has turned a lot of blue stars into gold here in a real short period of time. I am very torn about these things and while I have attending a few funerals for the military families here, I had not been to an actual KIA ceremony since I lost my own son and had to go through the whole process then. I have described how surreal and how mind blurring that whole period of time was for me. These are a lot different and more personally upsetting than I had imagined.
I read that another fine young soldier Spc. Jordan Morris from the 10th mountain Division who lost his life in Afghanistan was coming home on Saturday the 13th. As the only day that I can officially get out of work is Saturdays, I wanted to go to Stillwater to show support and stand the flag line and be a presence for him and for the family. It is an obligation for the country to show their respects to these men and women and their families. More than that though… The people in this country ought to WANT to stand shoulder to shoulder with each other and show these families and their fellow citizens that the fallen sons and daughters are not taken for granted and will never be forgotten.
My wife wanted to attend this homecoming today too… this unnerved me a bit as she had also not been to any of these let alone a KIA since Micheal’s. We were both about to find out how difficult this was going to be. We arrived in town and drove around until we found the place where the ceremony was to be held and then drove to the staging area where the various motorcycle groups were forming up to take part in the escort and show their support for this young man, his family and his community. There were hundreds of people there… It made me feel good to see them there.
We all gathered for the safety briefing from the Patriot Guard (even though we were in a “cage” this trip. The briefing covered many things and it even made me feel that some of things that happened during my son’s ceremony had finally been addressed. Even though it was like some horrible movie that day we had my son’s ceremony some things really stood out to me that day that angered and frustrated me to no end… what are you going to do to address this during a funeral? Once it starts… its like gravity… you’re along for a horrible ride that you cannot get off!
The Ride Captain covered the issue of taking photos… This was one of the most upsetting things during my son’s services. Some woman in the flag line was taking pictures of my son’s coffin and of my family during the ceremony… that really was upsetting as I cannot for the life of me figure who in their right minds would want a picture like that. The other issue that was covered was about not approaching the family. That also was a good idea to me. The second that the service ended at my son’s ceremony, (we hadn’t even stood up yet) I had several people literally climbing OVER me to get to my wife… a little nerve wracking to say the least.
After the briefing we all got into our vehicles and started the precession to the place where the memorial service was to take place, the line of vehicles was as impressive as anything that I’d ever seen. We all got into the parking lot and parked and moved to the front of the building to stand the flag line. One the way, we met the soldier who escorted Spc. Morris home. He was a young PFC from the 10th mountain. My wife hugged him and talked with him and this is where I knew that this was going to be an over emotional day… We moved to the front of the building with the others and stood the flag line in a HUGE group of men and women from the various organizations that were there that day. The call went out that the family was on the way. I told my wife that I hoped that being there in this large group of people made the family feel as I did that day when we came into sight of the cemetery and saw that there were literally hundreds of people there waiting to show their respects to my son.
The family drove into the parking lot and we all came to attention and the veterans saluted and the non- vets placed their hands over their hearts and the family was escorted by and into the building. We broke down the flag line and at that moment I knew that there was absolutely no way that I could go through the actual graveside ceremony for this man. I guess that I’m not as far down the trail as I should be at this point. We left the area and headed down the main street of Stillwater and it was also an emotional event. Hundreds of people lined the streets to show their respects the soldier who volunteered to represent us all and paid the highest cost. It took me back to driving a similar route on that March Day in 2008.