Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day '10: The Remembering

A Terrible Loss

With its magnificent monuments and rolling green sea of headstones, Arlington National Cemetery is one of the most awe-inspiring landmarks in the United States. Annually, tens of thousands of visitors tour the grounds viewing the resting places of the famous, and not so famous, American veterans. On this particular Friday afternoon in March though, there would be no tour buses. Today...Lt. Bruce would be buried a hero.

Lt. Bruce, along with two hundred and forty seven other members of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army, died in a plane crash in Gander, Newfoundland. They were on their way home from a peace-keeping mission in the Middle East. There were no survivors. Lt. Bruce's body was the last to be identified, and today, the last to be buried.

The Honor Guard, in their dress blues, marched with such synchronization it was as if they were marching as one. Behind them, two impeccable white stallions drew the cart containing the flag-draped coffin of Lt. Bruce. The procession of family and friends followed closely behind as stone-faced soldiers led the way down the winding road toward their final destination. If there was ever beauty in death, it was evident on this day.

When the procession reached the grave-site, the coffin was removed from the cart and placed on a stand next to the family. What followed was a touching and powerful eulogy. The flag on the coffin was then folded with razor-sharp precision on the cadence of the officer in charge. In its customary triangular shape, the flag was respectfully given to the mother of Lt. Bruce and the service closed with the traditional, yet moving, twenty-one-gun salute.

A teary-eyed friend in attendance who had known Lt. Bruce for nearly twenty years silently wished he could speak to him just one more time...But then, that was impossible.

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