Monday, April 05, 2010

Yeoman in the 'Stan: Chapter III

The third installment from our forward deployed Yeoman - keeping Afghanistan full of heads, decks, bulkheads and other proper words - and keeping those of us at home focused.
There was a ramp ceremony today, the first one that I have attended. What I was a part of was not a small affair; it was not performed as if it had been done a hundred times. It was solemn, dignified and proper. It was the most important ceremony I have ever been a part of.

It was two Marines we honored today. Marines from the unit of those we honored were in the front of the formation as we lined the ramp. Once we were formed up behind the Marines and at parade rest, I heard the following: “SQUAD, HO! CLOSE ORDER, MARCH! WHEEL, RIGHT! MARK, TIME! HAAAAAL-T!” It was the British forming up behind us; French, Dutch, Slovakians, and Canadians as well.

The remains were carried by an Honor Guard of fellow Marines. They moved in cadence to bagpipes playing the Marine Corps Hymn as we all saluted. A Navy Chaplain read scripture and Taps sounded. We saluted again as the Marine Color Guard retired the Colors.

Back in late February I was reading a book from the HALO series, based on the video game. In it, the protagonist, the Master Chief (That’s right, the savior of the galaxy in the future is a Sailor, a member of the Chief’s Mess to boot!), is the LCPO of a team of super warriors, who are only sent on impossible missions. His inner-dialog is of him coming to terms with the difference between ‘spending’ and ‘wasting’ a life. He comes to the conclusion that if the stakes are high enough, the end goal noble enough, and the leadership wise enough, that for someone to die in a mission he sent them on is a life spent. These Marines we paid our respects to, spent their lives so that others may live and not know war as they had. I do not feel sad about this.
General Patton told us that we should ‘thank God that such men lived!’ My eyes watered during the ceremony, especially when I realized it was the Marine Corps Hymn sounding from the bagpipes. But, it is not because of sorrow, it is out of gratitude; because of the renewing of my resolve from their effort, and all those before them that gave the ‘last full measure of devotion’ to their Nation and our ideals. I am proud of them, honored to have served with them, and humbled to be a part of a ceremony that gave tribute to them.

After the ceremony I started to think about how the remains will continue to be honored once CONUS: The escort that the Patriot Guard Riders, Warrior’s Watch, and many by other names provide as the fallen warrior’s remains make their way home. I began to think about how different it was for those who served in Vietnam and Korea. Where in Korea much was readily forgotten and the Vietnam era had a culture of ignorance and hate for all things military. Well, forget all that, it is relegated to history books and something I’ve never known personally.

Today, we servicemen are not treated that way. Because of the efforts of so many, I will not know anything like that nor will the deceased. Those who came before us and others now defend our hard earned honor, and ensure it remains intact. We defend your freedom, you defend our honor. This is a bond I now fully understand and am deeply grateful for.


Kristen said...

"We defend your freedom, you defend our honor."

Beautifully put.  This country has a capacity for self-correction that continues to serve us well.  I'm amazed when I read about the poor treatment of the Vietnam vets.  Those men, who returned home to such hostility, have led the way in ensuring that this generation of military will be honored for their service.  I'm proud of them for their efforts in Vietnam and for what they are doing today.

Desert Sailor said...

YN2, You continue to amze us with your prose.  BZ and stay safe!!

SCOTTtheBADGER said...

Thank you, YN2, for your service to us, as well.

Mary Alpha said...

May God bless you Sailor and all who serve with you and may God bring you all home safely and soon. You are in our prayers.