Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Burial of the Dead

Source. On Metafilter, a discussion arose about the practice of shipping dead US soldiers freight domestically in the US. Now, I'm not usually one for patriotic sentiment, but this story really got to me.
Here's what happened with a young soldier my funeral home buried this summer:

When he died, he was assigned a soldier to escort his body home. A flag was draped across his body. When he was placed into a shipping container, that flag was folded and placed inside the box with his body. (Sometimes the boxes are draped, but for this instance, it was inside with him.) The soldier who escorted his body sat beside the box as it flew on a cargo plane from Iraq to the United States.

When he got to the United States, the shipping container was placed on a regular domestic airplane, which flew from somewhere in the northeast to a stopover in Atlanta. When he got to Atlanta, he had missed his connecting flight, so the body would not reach our airport until the next day. The airline offered to put the soldier up for the night in a nice hotel in Atlanta. He declined their offer, and slept on the floor, in the hangar, next to the shipping container until the next morning. This was his choice.

When he landed in Baton Rouge, he was met by a convoy of over 75 police vehicles. (He served as a police officer before he went to Iraq). His body was placed into our funeral coach and was led, in procession, by those 75 vehicles, lights, sirens and all, to the dead soldier's hometown. The procession arrived at 10pm and was met by over 300 citizens, including his entire high school graduating class.

His escort turned the body over to us for the preparation for services. He had already been embalmed and dressed. He was placed into a casket and the next day he was placed into a local church for viewing. He was viewed for several hours, with a two person honor guard detail at his side the entire night. Every hour, his casket was draped with a new American Flag. These flags would be later given to his family.

The flag that had draped his body on the roadside where he died stayed with him in his casket.

After his funeral the next day, his body was escorted to Arlington National Cemetery, where he was buried three days later. At the end of the committal service, the escort who had stayed by his side presented to his mother the original flag that had been draped over her son when he died.
War is over if you want it.

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