Respect for a fallen Soldier

  • Published
  • By Kris McLean
  • 22 AF/A2A3
As I stood on the flightline, countless thoughts raced through my mind as I looked over the crowd. I gazed at the multitude - Airmen, Soldiers, civilians, and veterans - and my heart leapt with pride. For although we represented several uniformed services and many different backgrounds, we were all unified for one purpose - to honor and respect our fallen Soldier. As we congregated in the sweltering heat of the Georgia sun, I realized that whatever worries we had prior to this moment were trivial in comparison to what we were about to witness. You see, no one there was forced to participate and no one was coerced into paying homage to the fallen Soldier. We were all there because we simply understood that our brother-in-arms had given the ultimate sacrifice, his life. And, for that reason alone, we could endure the 106 degree heat index - our sacrifice paled in comparison.

While awaiting our young Soldier's arrival, we began to assemble to our respective places. Immediately my eyes fixated upon our Soldiers. As they assembled into formation, I thought of the many sacrifices they make day in and day out that oftentimes go unnoticed. Many civilians haven't a clue of what military members endure so their fellow citizens can enjoy the freedoms our country was founded upon. When they "signed the dotted line," they committed to service before self. That service included deploying to an unknown location and understanding that they may not return home in the same manner they left. Today was a sobering reminder of that sacrificial service.

Slowly, but surely, the plane carrying our fallen brother arrived. As it came to a stop, again I thought of the young man befitting of such an honor. Here lies a young man - a son, a husband, a grandson, a nephew, a friend - who could have easily taken a more traditional approach to life but instead opted to serve his country. As his brother stated in the news, he "wanted to be on the front line." So, this young man willingly "gave"- understanding that, ultimately, he would give his very life.

As his wife approached his casket, my heart wept for her. Only one year into marriage and now she had to say, "goodbye." I thought of how her life has been completely turned around. The many dreams they may have had together has now been shattered. I couldn't imagine being a widow at such a young age. While I may have complained of issues like who left the toilet seat up or who left the toothpaste uncovered with my own spouse, at this moment my issues seemed petty as I watched this young woman at the casket and realized that she, too, had made the ultimate sacrifice.

As his family advanced towards the casket, my heart wept even more. For, as a parent, I couldn't fathom having to bury my child. Although I couldn't fully comprehend the hurt and pain his family was experiencing, my heart wept nonetheless. I tried not to cry, but the tears flowed effortlessly. My tears spoke what my heart was trying to say - that when one falls, we all feel the pain. Apparently the pain was felt from heart to heart, for I could not silence the sniffles heard all around me.

You see, despite the heat, we all understood what it meant to make that ultimate sacrifice. While our greatest worry this morning may have been standing in the heat - that was really such a small sacrifice in comparison to the one who lay before us. How often do we really consider our brothers and sisters who are still in harm's way; those who are on the front lines protecting our freedoms? I thought of the holidays established to honor our fallen heroes - such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day - and wonder if we really ever consider their purpose? Do we ever look beyond the barbeques, picnics, etc., and think of the many men and women who have fought, bled, and died so that we may enjoy those freedoms? I believe many who were out there today do understand. From the uniformed member to the civilian, from the contractor to the decorated veteran, whether representing the Army or the Air Force - we understand we are all on the same team and we understand our common purpose. We understand that when our fallen Soldiers come home we must always gather to show our respect and honor for their ultimate sacrifice and we must ensure their families know they are not alone - that their military family supports and honors them for their sacrifices as well.

As the family exited the flightline, I said a silent prayer for them - that God will continue to comfort them and give them the strength to go on. I understand the grief process is a journey through which they will have to walk day by day. But, I pray their journey is a little easier knowing that they have the full love and support of our extended military family. I believe our fallen Soldier's mother felt the love as I saw her whisper "thank you" several times to those gathered.

Yes today was a scorcher, but not even the sun could've kept me from showing my respect for our fallen hero and nothing could diminish the pride I felt for the many people who came together to pay homage to one who truly deserved it. The outpouring of love for the family was beautiful and it made me even more proud to be a member of the 22nd Air Force and the Dobbins Air Reserve Base family.

Love, peace and blessings to you all!