Chapter 6: A Widow’s Tears
“No matter how many people you bury, it never gets any easier.”
Have you ever tried to tell someone that a loved one close to them died? I guarantee you that it would be the hardest thing in your life that you would ever try to do. I had to do a funeral for a soldier who was an unfortunate victim of an IED (Improvised Explosive Device, main weapon for Iraqi insurgents). His convoy was his by an IED while on patrol, and he received a fatal wound. Look up videos on YouTube for IED explosions.
I was selected to do a funeral service for this soldier. We rehearsed for several days in order to prepare for this funeral. One might ask, what was my role, exactly? During a funeral procession, you have to fold up the flag in a certain way. Once this is done, you present it to the first of kin. In this case, it was the wife. A newly widowed woman, who looked quite young. I helped fold up this flag with a couple other soldiers, and then marched over in a military manner towards the widow. I presented her with the flag, and then saluted her. That’s all I could do. This little gesture in thanks for her husband’s sacrifice.
A part of me died that day. I felt so helpless. I could not ease her suffering. How many people actually know about the deaths of these soldiers? This isn’t a fairytale or anything, it is real life.
Someone said to me, “Why would you ever volunteer for that? Why fight for a war you don’t believe in?”
They’re paying for my college. It’s also pretty good for work experience and job connections. Finally, it’s a bit of a pride thing when you put a uniform on.
Another person said, “What, you think you’re a hero now?”
No one volunteers to be a hero. I don’t think of myself as one. The true heroes are the ones in the casket. The ones that are forgotten.
But for every one out of a hundred that comes to say thank you to me, it makes my job that much more worth it.
The most flattering thing said to me in my entire life was at Penn Station. I was on my way to Stony Brook, still in uniform (I get free rides on the train if I’m in uniform). I was waiting for the track number on the train for Port Jefferson to come up on that screen, when a five year old kid came up to me to say thank you.
Most soldiers will do more humanitarian work overseas than most people will do in their entire lives.