Dignified – to confer honor or dignity on, to honor|
Commentary by Col. Brian Killough
42nd Air Base Wing commander
2/4/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Saturday morning was beautiful, with crystal-clear skies. The temperature was very comfortable, and almost any outdoor sport would have been a joy.
However, for more than a thousand members of the Maxwell community, they set
aside their own personal desires to pay honor and tribute to a fallen brother.
As I drove the route in preparation for the arrival of the family of Spc. Joshua Lancaster, I was immediately struck by the great team of defenders already out setting up traffic control points and making sure there was no disturbance or
problem arriving or departing the base. Then as I arrived at base operations, I was awed by the sight of hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders and their motorcycles.
At base ops, the Force Support Squadron, Operations Support Flight, Civil Engineer
Squadron and Logistics Readiness Squadron teams were already working diligently to make sure every need was taken care of and that all arrangements were complete.
Soldiers of the U.S. Army Honor Guard went through a last practice and prepared
for their duty in immaculate uniforms. Across the flightline, hundreds of Officer Training School trainees moved into position along Mitchell Street as the fire trucks and crews positioned in respect.
The somber caravan of the hearse and family limousines soon arrived, and the family somberly moved into the distinguished visitor lounge and out on the patio to await the arrival of the aircraft. Whispered conversations and condolences were shared of a grandson, son and husband who chose to serve his nation in a time of war and who, along with a loving family, made the ultimate sacrifice.
The small charter jet soon appeared north of the field and settled quietly onto the runway.
As the jet taxied in, military members came to attention, and the family moved out to
watch the dignified transfer.
The ceremony was conducted with honor, solemnity and dignity fitting a fallen warrior.
Soon thereafter, the family members moved toward limousines to accompany their
loved one to the funeral home.
As the small official party from the 42nd ABW stood at attention, ready to assist with
any need, several of the family members stopped to speak to us. They did not stop to
ask why, nor did they ask for anything. They stopped to say, "Thank you for what you have done for us!" This family grieving together in a terrible loss stopped in the midst of their grief to say, "Thank you!"
As I followed them across base to Day Street, I watched the residents of Maxwell AFB, in and out of uniform, alone or with unit flags flying, come to attention and slowly salute the warrior and his family out of respect. I reflected on the
sons and daughters of this great country with which we have been entrusted. I reflected on the brotherhood/sisterhood of warriors who have each sworn to defend our great nation. And I reflected on a proud family who took the time in the midst of their loss to say thank you.
So that is exactly what I want to say to each of you, whether or not you were
present on Saturday. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to defend our great nation.