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October 27, 2006

Corporal Unger's Funeral, coda.

The day started with the Castle flag at half-staff (yes, done correctly, raised, then lowered, just as it will be raised, then lowered this evening).

It's a dark, grey, rainy morning, with a mist on the hills, and the waters of the lakes steel-grey. There's a rising, bitter wind out of the northwest, as the storm front that brought the rain passes through.

At 0930, people start to congregate along Grant Avenue. Military, civilians, Army, Air Force, Marine, Navy. Officers of foreign militaries here for school. Veterans and those who never served - or perhaps have served as civilians. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins.

VFW and Legion hats and jackets. All quietly talking amongst themselves, the chat broken here and there by laughter.

One gentleman in front of me explains that his little flag waved over the graves of 4 of the Band of Brothers at the Normandy Cemetery. Corporal Unger has a strong tie to warriors past and present.

The group of CGSC students I'm standing amongst are telling war stories, bitching about silly seniors, really ragging on bosses who did stupid things during their times in the sandbox. And, of course, gripe about CGSC, as students have done at Fort Leavenworth for decades.

Combat patches abound. Many of the people lining the road brought their flags... on their sleeves.

The crowd starts to fill in, as more people make the trek from their offices across the installation. There's no parking nearby, everybody standing along Grant has walked there. Some short distances, like people from the TRADOC Analysis Center, some longer, such as those from the National Simulation Center and Battle Command Training Program.

The crowd is large enough, people start filling in across the street, on the side where the old interurban trolley once ran.

The Garrison Commander's note said... 0930. It's getting on to 0950 and that wind is really whipping in from the north. The students, most of whom really aren't dressed for the weather, start to look a bit chilly - and are getting more animated in order to generate some warmth. Thankfully, it's not raining - but, near as I can tell, even though things are running late and it's cold... the crowd just gets bigger.

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Finally - the "trigger" for my personal "Target Area of Interest" gets pulled - the MP car positioned at the intersection by Hoge Barracks and the Buffalo Soldier Monument blips his lights and closes cross-traffic at the intersection - the indicator that the cortege has arrived on post.

People notice, and start to sort themselves out along the road, the clumps breaking up in anticipation. The warriors, old and new, stand a little taller, faces get "the look." If you've even seen warriors at funerals, well, you know "the look."

Another MP car, lights flashing, crests the hill. Corporal Unger is coming home to rest. What little traffic is left on Grant pulls over, and several drivers get out of their vehicles.

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Preceded by MPs and the cyclists of the Patriot Guard, Corporal Unger's hearse rolls by slowly, as hands young and fit, old and gnarled, snap to foreheads as the colors and the hearse pass. Colors dip in a wave as the cortege passes. Not a word is spoken.

I'm doing fine until the car after the hearse passes by, and I see Laura Unger, looking as lost and devastated as can be. There must have been some rain falling at that point, I guess.

The cars keep coming and coming. I've seen many funerals at Fort Leavenworth - but none this well attended. People in the cars are looking out at us... I guess it was raining in their cars, too.

The cortege went past for minutes, ending with another large group of Patriot Guard riders.

As the rumble of motorcycle engines fades up the road, the crowd disperses. Most of them are going back to their tasks which support the war, and many of them will go back to the war, sooner or later - but all of them took the time to brave the elements to give a small town 'Murica salute to a fallen warrior.

{Break}

It's now about 1PM, and the committal service is over, the volleys fired. I came home so I could post this.

And in a sign of hope, the sun is breaking through the clouds.

Life goes on, and goes forward. Faster for some of us than others.

But the hope embodied in the sun, the belief in a better tomorrow and the hope for a more peaceful future is what Corporal David Unger fell trying to give to the Iraqis, us, and his children.

The torch is passed.

Now is the time at Castle Argghhh! when we dance: In Memoriam.


Day is done.
Gone the sun
From the lake, from the hill, from the sky.

All is well.
Sleep tonight.
God is nigh.

John | Permalink | Comments (21) | Something for the Soul
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