Beer, BBQ and Bodies

Why did I have to bring that up and ruin a perfectly good, 3-day weekend of eating, drinking and fun in the sun.

Because we have only 2 remaining sacred holidays in the U.S.  Memorial Day is one of them. Veterans Day is the other.

The death toll topped the 1,000 mark in Afghanistan this month. Are we still keeping a count for Iraq? The families who have lost fathers, sons, mothers and daughters are still counting.

I was on a flight with an honor guard some time ago. I always speak to and commend our service personnel whenever I see them. The Major and Captain told me they were accompanying a fallen soldier home.

When I got off the plane I noticed a man waiting, looking out the window. He wasn’t there to meet a passenger. They don’t allow that since 911. The greeting happens down in the baggage area outside of the security zone.

I introduced myself and explained that I knew our plane was on an important final mission. I suspected this man was there to meet the fallen. He was, as I had guessed, there to watch the brief ceremonial unloading of the casket from the aircraft. I asked if I might just stand silently with him. He thanked me for being there. He thanked me.

It was very solemn watching the flag draped coffin slowly move down the conveyor belt to the men I had met on the plane—both at attention. A small group of soldiers had arrived as well. They loaded the casket into a hearse. All of this took place in slow motion.

It was very moving to share this moment with a total stranger in the Sacramento airport with no one else around. No one.

“Your son,” I timidly asked?  “My wife,” the man relied.

We did not exchange names or details. My name wasn’t important and I didn’t want him to say any more than he cared to say. I was honored and deeply grieved to share that moment.

I’m thinking about him this weekend. And his kids. And friends who served. And a brother who is still in service to the country.

All we’re asked to do is remember.  For that they give us a three day weekend of beer and BBQ. It’s not much to ask of us.

Chris Reich