I listened to NPR's Fresh Air program last Thursday. The featured story was "A 'Final Salute' to Fallen Marines" (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90065224). Journalist Jim Sheeler joined Major (now Col) Steve Beck in his role as Casualty Assistance Liaison for the USMC. He was the man who knocked on the door of the fallen soldier's loved ones to inform them and then help them through the process of returning that soldier home. From greeting the airplane bearing the coffin, to tucking and presenting the flag at the funeral, Major Beck established bonds with each family. Over five years later, he attests to remaining in contact the majority of these families: "they became a part of our extended family."
As I listened to excerpts of both the book and Jim's recounting of his observations while following Beck, I went through a packet of those travel tissues, and then some. From statements about "Marines greeting the coffin often spoke to their fallen brother, 'Welcome home.'" and "She screamed and then ran from the room, clutching her very pregnant belly, cradling the unborn child who would never meet his/her father." and "The coffin is always guarded by Marines- at the head and the foot- sometimes retelling their own war stories and reflections; but always mindful of their duty to watch over the fallen Marine."
I cried because I was thankful for their service. I cried because I could not imagine what would be my reaction to such news. I cried because the care and thoughtfulness of each of the soldier's actions touched my heart. I work with many Marines, and soldiers from other services. These men and women are strong- simply put. To see the "softer" side is an occasion not many are privileged to witness. The stark reality of this journalist witnessing and then transcribing, so poeticly, what transpired in these moments of utter grief - inspired me.
On few occasions, our service lost members in the line of duty. Each person's service and personal qualities were mourned, recalled, thanked, and remembered. I am humbled by their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of those men, women, and families of the US Armed Forces. With Memorial Day approaching, I can only hope that stories such as this will be a prominent reflection of all US families.
I encourage our readers and my fellow authors to grab a box of tissues and either listen to the podcast, read the book, or both.