A change in music seemed appropriate -- A Sort of Homecoming by U2
On August 29th, my hometown lost her first Marine to our nation's war on terror. He was only 21. He had turned 21 just a month ago. He was born a couple of months after Michael and I started dating. To provide more perspective, Tyler was born two days after the first Live Aid Concert; the Achille Lauro was hijacked by terrorists- Leon Klinghoffer is murdered; Mexico City was hit by a huge earthquake killing thousands upon thousands... weeks after the earthquake, rescuers were pulling babies out alive from the rubble of a hospital... remember?
Tyler never had the chance to have a legal beer. Tyler never had the chance to grow old.
Last night was the visitation.
I went with my partner in crime, Kyle, a Marine Vietnam Veteran as I usually do. He and I are cut from the same cloth on this. Attending visitations and funerals, although at times are uncomfortable and even inconvenient, it is the least we can do to pay respect to the family of a fallen hero. So when one of us is not up to it or searching for excuses not to go, we nudge each other a little.
We stood in line to walk by the American flag draped coffin guarded by a Marine in dress blues and meet and offer our condolences to the family. Tyler came from a large family. His mother was one of 12 siblings- we learned this from the first aunt in the receiving line... Receiving lines at funerals should have a different name. Receiving lines are for weddings...joyful occasions... Tyler's aunt could not have been much older than her nephew. As I recall there were about 3 or 4 aunts and a few uncles- all looked exhausted- emotionally drained, but smiled and thanked everyone for coming - Strong Kentucky stock.
I feel like an idiot.
There are times when I should just not speak. I don't know what I said to the family... except a brief explanation of "you don't know me, but I'm here to pay respect" and "I'm so sorry" and "thank you". What a stupid thing to say-- thank you... thank you for what? I sounded like one of the characters in The Godfather paying tribute.... My choice of words... pure and simple... were awful-- What?? Thank you for sacrificing your nephew, your cousin, your brother, you son!! Again...Sometimes I should just keep my mouth shut... When I came to Tyler's mom... she and I had to be about the same age... Looking into her eyes- I will never know the pain she feels. I can never understand the loss of a child. It's not supposed to be that way, anyway, right? The parent is always supposed to go before the child, right? I wish I would have prayed for the right words- are there any right words for a grieving mother? I suppose not- but I wish I had chosen words that would have expressed my profound appreciation for her son's sacrifice and her courage to endure this pain. To be able to say to Tyler's brother and sister... I can't begin to understand the pain you feel, but know that there are folks everywhere that are praying for you and your family. I was facing Tina, Tyler's Mom when guard's changed. Everything stopped. Looking into her eyes I watched her watch the Marines, a slight nod and thank you- and a twinkle in her eye surrounded by meloncholy. I couldn't look in her eyes anymore, I had to look away - I'm not strong enough. She said Tyler died doing what he loved.
Tyler Warndorf was only 21, but he was a Marine and he knew the dangers. He stood with his brothers on the battlefield. He was only 16 years old when we were attacked by hatemongers on September 11, 2001. I can only imagine that had a profound effect on the young man. His life choice to become a Marine during wartime is staggering- a man of courage, a man of honor.
My appreciation for this young man's service is humble as his sacrifice is immeasurable. God Speed Tyler Warndorf.
6/20/06 CBS News - photo of Tyler broadcast on all international papers
6/27/06 Enquirer - family response to the photos
8/29/06 Honor the Fallen - Military City
8/31/06 WKRC - local coverage
8/31/06 Enquirer - local coverage
9/4/06 WCPO - a sad homecoming, more photos
Boone County - our Judge Executive ordered all county flags at half staff. So, I took a few photos...
click on each photo for a larger image
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.