Tuesday, November 01, 2005
In my previous post I briefly mentioned a solider that was killed while attempting to help his wounded squad leader out of a house they were assaulting. Last night we conducted a memorial ceremony. That part of being a chaplain is very difficult and yet very fulfilling.
The death of a soldier can be both demoralizing and motivating to friends and warriors who survive an encounter with a deadly and determined enemy. Surviving soldiers often feel guilt and rage and want little more than revenge. It is an incredible honor to be able to speak to the comrades of the fallen and offer them hope and help them refocus on the mission at hand as opposed to the desire for vengeance. Last night I was afforded that honor.
The thing that makes the military memorial ceremony so memorable is when you see young men, warriors, with arms capable of lifting a small car and legs that could carry that car for several miles, weeping for the love of a lost friend. Such open displays of emotion and fraternal love are practically non-existent outside this context. These are real men with real hearts and real spirits who really mourn their real friends. But the tears are only half the story. The deliberate movements, the practiced words, the rock solid stare of a man at attention, are indicators, pointers if you will, to the deep respect and devotion these men have for one another.
As usual, the ceremony concludes with the playing of taps, the folding of the flag, and the silent dismissal of the troops in formation. As the men move out, back to their places of duty, back to the fighting, many will stop by the memorial stand, snap to attention, and render one final salute to their brother in arms. If you can watch that and not approach emotional meltdown, then you have no soul.