Partly Cloudy - Hi 95 Lo 73 for Baghdad, Iraq
Partly Cloudy - Hi 70 Lo 51 for Northern KY, USA
Song of the week: Fragile, Sting
Michael, The Dark Celt replied via email to last Sunday's post with the following comment on snakes and I wanted to share...
"[...] Anyway, regarding your comment on why soldiers pose with dead snakes... I never really thought of it but, you know what, I'll be damned if you aren't right... it has and does happen frequently. I wonder why? Maybe it's in a soldier's or American's subconscious. Maybe, in an indirect way, American soldiers are merely echoing what their forefather's did during the American Revolution with the whole, "Don't Tread on Me" thing. [...]
To be sure, the snake or serpent has always represented evil. Maybe soldiers like to have photos taken with dead snakes because it's symbolic of defeating the enemy. Consider, for a moment, St. Michael - the Archangel... almost every image or painting you see of St. Michael, he's stomping the almighty hell out of a snake. The snake, of course, is Satan. St. Michael, by the way, is the patron saint of U.S. Army paratroopers. And what about St. George and the dragon? St. George is the patron saint of the U.S. Army infantry. Now, as far as I know, there ain't any dragons around.... but there is an abundant supply of snakes. A grunt in the field, holding aloft a dead serpent... couldn't that soldier subconsciously be emulating images he's seen of St. George? Saint George with a newly slain dragon 'neath his feet?"
I like that Michael... it makes sense to me... although when I said something to Kyle and apparently he never posed with a dead snake when he was active military... so that blows my theory...
So, Friday evening after a long painful day at work, my buddy, my pal, Kyle and I attended the visitation of fallen Marine, Lance Corporal Justin Sims.
Did either of us know him? No. Why go? This young man gave the ultimate sacrifice. The least I can do is show up and pay my respects.
Funerals at best is a sad occasion - a time when folks can reminisce about the good times... at worst it is a time when you see loved ones fall to pieces with heartache so great, you believe they might never recover.
Attending a visitation or funeral for a young soul is particularly painful and heartbreaking.
Look at Justin's face. Justin was only 22 years old. Justin was only 26 months old when President Reagan gave his speech about the Space Shuttle Challenger. "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
Look more closely. The photo they gave us at the funeral home, shows that Justin had piercing blue eyes... A handsome, gregarious man. He signed up for The Corps, knowing full well, where he could end- yet that was never even a consideration.
Look yet even closer. According to his mother, Alma - being a part of the Marine Corps was a life long dream.
Look beyond the dress blues... this is a man, who loved his life... loved his family, loved his wife, loved his friends. He knew what he was doing. He knew that being in Iraq and fighting terrorism there is a far better thing.
When we arrived, young men and women were in dress blues. The funeral home was packed. In speaking with one woman, she stated that the line had gone out the door. We walked into the parlor where Justin's coffin was covered by the American flag. On either side of him on guard were 2 Marines in dress blues. I said a prayer. We moved from room to room, several folks had done memory boards with pictures from happier days. One was done by his widowed wife. We have widows now.... she is only 22... In the adjoining room, members of the MCJROTC were standing at attention. There were pictures of a younger Justin from high school when he was a member of the MCJROTC.
Flowers were everywhere and were sent by everyone... the cards were just snapshots of the love people had for this young man. In lieu of flowers, someone sent a platter of chicken wings from Applebees with a tall neck beer... better days... good times...
Kyle and I made our way about. Kyle was calling out and embracing every man that had on the uniform and calling out "Semper Fi" to them. Kyle spoke to a young man and asked if he could point us in the right direction of the parents. The young man rounded up the father first. Kyle embraced him and said something in his ear. I don't know what he said, but tears welled up in my eyes. It was then my turn... I don't remember what I said, except that I was sorry for his loss- that I'm sorry that he had to endure this pain. (what a dumb thing to say...) The young man then took us to meet the grandmother. Kyle instantly hugged her and said something in her ear. Grandma wasn't crying. She was one tiny petite tough as nails cookie. She was watching everyone. She then reached out and embraced me.... she hugged me! She thanked me for coming. At that point I remember asking for the words from Him and He gave them to me. I told her that I was so sorry that she lost her grandson. I thanked her for the sacrifice she and her family has made. I thanked her for the courage and bravery of her grandson. The young man, who I can only assume was a family member waited quietly and when we finished speaking with Grandma, led us to Alma, Justin's mother. The young man introduced us and Kyle without hesitation hugged her and they embraced for a very long time. She started to weep. Kyle and she were both speaking to each other. As I watched them embrace, I remember feeling my own tears going down my cheek. I didn't try to stop crying. I just let them fall. It was then my turn. I asked Him for the words again. I hugged her, she thanked me for coming. I thanked her for her sacrifice, I thanked her for her son and his ultimate sacrifice. I told her that I was so sorry that she had to feel this much pain and sorrow. The whispered conversation ear to ear seemed to go on and on. She hugged me and I hugged her the way I hug those I loved dearly. You know what I mean? Tight and unguarded... We then all talked about many little things- the funeral details... things to keep the conversation going- small talk... thank goodness Kyle was there... I suck at small talk... She then started to weep again. She had one of Justin's dog tags on a chain around her neck and she started touching it. She then started laughing and said, that if Justin were there, he'd kick her a$$ for being all weepy. She told us he loved the kids in Iraq, she told us that he wrote her about all the good work they were doing in Iraq and that it is right thing to do. Justin's mom is one tough woman. She wanted to make sure we understood that. Alma wanted everyone to know that her son loved his country, loved his family, loved The Corps and he was proud to be part of an elite group fighting the bad guys....
Thank you, Alma.
Articles and Links about Justin:
Blogs and Links to Check Out This Week:
I only have one link this week, because I haven't had much computer time this week. but go check out Diane and read this one by her... a portion of a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt... pretty poignant stuff...
Capt B. continues to write.
Jedi Master Rob shares his experiences on Earth Day.
A Marine's Prayer
Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.
Give me the will to do the work of a Marine and to accept my share of responsibilities with vigor and enthusiasm. Grant me the courage to be proficient in my daily performance. Keep me loyal and faithful to my superiors and to the duties my Country and the Marine Corps have entrusted to me. Help me to wear my uniform with dignity, and let it remind me daily of the traditions which I must uphold.
If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.
Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.
So, this week, when I get whiney about how much I detest my job... I'll remember Alma and the week she is having....
Have a great week everyone!