Honoring the Fallen

Very early in the morning here on Thursday, our chapel team assembled with many other Air Force personnel to join the Army in rendering honors to a fallen brother. A young man, recently married, leading his troops fell to a grenade attack. Following the attack, I had ministered to one of his fellow soldiers who had been wounded. I had visited with this wounded troop both before and after his surgery here at our medical facility before his evacuation onward. I also had an opportunity to visit with another person in the vehicle, who fortunately was not hurt in the attack as well as with other soldiers of his unit. They all spoke very highly of the man whose life was taken from him. I feel for his wife and loved ones, but I suspect having heard from his fellow soldiers, that this man's ability and leadership has saved lives and had a direct impact on the mission here.

So early in the morning in the middle of the night, we drove to the assembly area and formed up in ranks. I remember hearing during my Office Basic training that the Air Force doesn't march beyond training, but that is not true. We formed up and waited at Parade Rest for the C-130 to land and take position. It was starkly quiet as the plane came in and pulled around. Then we marched out smartly to take our position on one side of the pathway. The Army marched out and took position on the other side. The color guard stood proudly; unit penants were clearly displayed as there were many upon many people there to render honor as our brother began his final journey home.

We rendered salutes as our fellow soldier passed, carried slowly with deliberation, lead on the first steps of his journey home by a chaplain. Then our chaplain colleague from the Army mounted the ramp of the aircraft followed by the members of the unit that the fallen soldier had belonged to and spoke some quiet words of comfort and promise. We stood stark still, in the silence of the night, hundreds of men and women frozen in rocklike solidarity and tribute covered with a canopy of stars with the silence broken only by the occassional audible sobbing that accompanied some falling tears and I suspect not a few prayers for family and loved ones and thoughts of why we are here and why we do what we do.

Then his team returned to their position, the ramp of the aircraft closed and we were dismissed to quietly return to our work with resolution and purpose. If they enemy thinks that loss will break our will and lead to our defeat, they truly do not understand us as a nation and a people.

I pray that God watches over and keeps the family and friends of my brother in arms.