Paying Respects To Fallen Airmen: A Lifetime In 8 Minutes
(May 12, 2011)
|SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS - 5/9/2011) -- It was just eight
minutes. I would think about that later. It was just eight
short minutes from the time the troop commander called
everyone to attention to the time he dismissed us. Just
eight short minutes that I will remember for the rest of my
Eight short minutes in which I watched two
fallen military members transferred out the back of a C-17
Globemaster III and onto a waiting truck. Eight minutes
where I, along with about 90 other military members, all
ranks, all services, civilians too, stood at attention and
slowly rendered a salute as those two flag-draped cases were
carried off of that aircraft.
Before those eight
minutes, the passengers who had been sharing their flight
with these two fallen warriors were asked to exit the
aircraft and form up two lines, one on either side of the
cargo ramp at the 387th Air Expeditionary Group, which is
part of the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing.
across, we stood. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen all
stood solemnly at parade rest. No one told us to; it was
just natural, like the moment demanded every ounce of our
It didn't matter that some of
these passengers had traveled all day and were only stopping
for a little while. It didn't matter that some of us had
worked an entire 12-hour day when that aircraft landed late
What mattered were those eight minutes.
As the troop commander called the formation to
attention, I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye. I
saw the sharp snap of the six Airmen whose charge it was to
carry these fallen warriors off of the aircraft. With grace
and poise, these six Airmen performed the transfer.
As they walked past me, I thought of the warriors in those
cases. I thought about how these warriors wouldn't be able
to feel the soft breeze on a still night. They wouldn't be
able to hold their families, hug them or kiss them again.
They wouldn't be able to see the stars again.
those eight minutes, I thought about a lifetime of things
these two fallen warriors would never be a part of again. As
that thought passed through me with a shiver, I stood a
little bit taller, saluted just a little bit sharper. If
these two warriors were never going to see these simple joys
again, the least I could give was everything, every single
thing I had, for the remainder of those eight minutes.
They deserved it. They deserved all that the solemn
90-man formation had that night.
These two warriors
gave their life for those simple freedoms, for those things
that many of us take for granted. In those eight minutes, I
thanked those warriors from the depths of my soul. I thanked
them for their sacrifice, and for paying the ultimate price.
My day started as mundane and routine, just another day
on my deployment, one more day closer to me returning to my
family. It did not, however, end that way.
eight short minutes my perspective was forever changed.
By USAF SSgt. Patrice Clarke|
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Air Force News
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