September 23, 2013
Military Honors Funerals at Arlington National Cemetery 11:00 a.m.
I drove to the Ft. Myers entrance at Arlington and since I no longer have military ID or a base pass on my vehicle, I was sent to the vehicle inspection area. They performed a thorough inspection: show my ID, get out of the car, open all doors, glove compartment, center console, trunk, hood and they also swept under the car with a mirror on a long pole. Then the dog did a complete walk-around. I was impressed with their professional job while maintaining courtesy. As I drove out of the inspection area, the bus carrying the families drove in and I followed it to the Old Post Chapel.
Jim’s grandsons escorted me to the pew in the Chapel. The service in the Chapel was about 20 minutes and quite beautiful. Near the end of the service Déjà vu again got me. The organ played “How Great Thou Art,” which had been played at Glenn’s funeral 45 ½ years ago, and I couldn't stop the tears from flowing. The Air Force mortuary detail Airmen carried the caskets out to the two caissons waiting outside the Chapel. Jim’s casket was put on the caisson in front, drawn by white horses. Howard’s casket was put on the caisson in back, drawn by black horses. The band marched into place in front of the caissons and the drummers and pipers set the pace. Some people walked behind, the families rode in the Air Force bus as the procession started the mile trek to the grave sites. I drove my car since we’d been instructed that we could not leave personal vehicles at the Chapel. I was about the 6th vehicle in line and I could hear the band and horses hooves as they moved along the cemetery paths.
At the grave sites, some of the family sat in chairs provided and the remaining family and friends stood for the graveside service. Military Honors services are beautiful, even when your heart is breaking. The precision, honor, respect and history of honoring our deceased veterans with such love and dignity always brings the memories of all those brave souls who have gone to their final rest before them.
As always, the volley of the gun salute makes me jump with every shot, and taps makes me cry. Then, in the ensuing quiet as the last note wafted on the wind, I heard the unmistakable sound of those “big round radial engines” up in the sky to my left. I looked up and here came the airplanes doing the fly-over tribute, flown by members of the private, volunteer Warrior Flight Team. A beautiful B-25 bomber came first and the pilot opened the bomb-bay doors in tribute as the plane flew overhead. Next came three aircraft, an A-26, flanked by 2 P-51’s, one on each side. Jim and Howard were flying an A-26 when they were shot down and KIA and having the A-26 here was a magnificent tribute! Next came a flight of 4 L-39 jets and as they got overhead, one pulled up in the “missing man” tribute. We witnessed history in the making as 8 planes performed the fly-over, the most aircraft in the same fly-over ever done at Arlington National Cemetery.