Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Marine Funeral

With USMC Birthday Celebrations being held all over America and some other parts of the world this weekend I thought it might be right to re-post this article written several years ago.  Just a reminder that the Marines and others are on duty 24-7-365, in the mud and the dust and even down the block from where you live.  


Early Sunday morning, after the annual Marine Corps Birthday , called the Marine Ball, a 23-year old Sergeant and his wife were walking, him in his Dress Blues, in New Orleans' French Quarter. 

He had served in combat in Iraq and Afganistan and was a professional warrior. That didn't keep him alive when he and his wife were accosted by a local hood. During the altercation Sgt Ryan Lakosky was stabbed and died soon after. The killer has not been identified or caught. 

I was called upon to pipe the funeral late last evening and turned out early today at the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station. 

It was a solomn and serious program, attended by nearly every Marine, and many Navy personal on base. the Chapel was full, overfull really. There were Marines in the family sitting room, down the hallways, lining the walls of the chapel and out into the yard at every exit. 

As usual, each and every Marine looked good......just know if you are one. Creases right, sleeves in the BDU's rolled right, boots tied right, covers on right........"yes, sir", "no,sir", "thank you , sir"........perfect manners, no doubt better than the manners these folks were raised to respect in their own homes, but now the "standard manners" of the Corps. 

As I looked around I was impressed, as I always am when I am chosen to play for them. These are tough men. Many of them have hard faces, perhaps only when they are on duty and in uniform. These are men who can sleep in the mud, run twenty miles, carry a wounded comrade as far as needed and another mile beyond, in the heat, and under enemy fire. And, they laugh and smile when they meet. They treat a geezer in a kilt as if he is the King of Louisiana and thank me for helping out. I smile and shake their hands, and then I thank them for getting up every day and BEING MARINES. My children sleep safely because Marines stay awake in the most hellish places on Earth every day. 

After the ceremony, the Chaplain invited those who wished to pass by the table displaying Sgt Lakosky's helmet, canteen cup, dog tags and Kabar knife . Everyone, and I mean every single Marine stood in line while I played the Hymn over and over and over. Each one strode to the table, pivoted to the right, snapped to attention, paused , pivoted as only persons who have been trained to can, 180 degrees, snapped heels...then turned, knelt and spoke with the family. Not some of them, not many of them, but EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM, from the General, on down the ranks.......they never hurried, they never checked their watches, they didn't chatter in line. They were there on a respect the dead and to ensure that the family knew that there is a family of Marines, and everyone there was included. 

I have played many Marine functions. This sort of single minded goal-attainment is normal. I have never been into combat with the Marines, but I am guessing that the single minded goal-attainment strategy there is even more intense. My feeling is always this: IF WE MUST HAVE WAR, THEN WE ARE BLESSED TO HAVE MARINES WILLING TO HELP WAGE IT. God help the enemy who confronts these men and women. 

I had time to discuss the young man and his needless death with several Marines. His C.O. and i talked, and he set me straight. He said, with a hard smile on his face, "There's two ways I want to leave this life, and I want to see it coming. I want to go out killing Al Qaida/Taliban and defending the honor of my wife and family." He looked me in the eye, and with real intensity said, "Ryan and I worked closely together for two and a half years, and he got a chance to do that. He died defending his wife's honor." He meant everything he said. I think all these men and women are driven much that same way. While you and I are watching football, or raking leaves or waiting for the mailman to come, these Marines, and many more like them are on duty......24/7/365.......for the last 235 years. 

Are you saying a prayer tonight ? How about if you drop in a short line for the memory and family of Sgt. Ryan Lakosky and the USMC. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Throwing Some Light On THE Constitution

Sometimes certain things confuse and anger me. Here is a first hand story, all true, I WAS THERE.   On August 13, 2011, a Saturday I was in Wash DC.  An old friend took time to escort me and my daughter around and showed us many of the historical sites in the Washington Mall area and some other special places.    

One place we visited was the National Archives.   I'd never been to Wash. DC before and this was one place I really wanted to see.  After being frisked and tested and de-pocketed we were allowed to enter, passing through the gift shop, of course.     We found our way to the Hall of Documents and stood shivering as we had been drenched in a sudden rainstorm on the way to the Archives.   It was a crowded day, probably a typical summer saturday, and the line to actually get into the rotunda and SEE the documents wound back and forth.  

The guards, all black, all armed, and all looking bored, went through the litany of rules for every 25 or so persons finally admitted past the velvet rope.  (Author's note: I considered leaving out the fact that the guards were all Black, but really thought that to leave that fact out could be taken as racist. )

"The Rotunda is darkened to protect the Documents.  Use of any lights, flashlights, or any other kind of light is strictly prohibited.  These are the original Documents and the light will damage them.  They must be protected for future generations.  No photographs of any kind will be permitted .  No flash guns or strobes on any camera or other device will be permitted.  The room is darkened and must remain that way.  Any deviation from this rule and you and your party will be escorted out of the Rotunda"    etc, etc.........

So, in we went.  I was in awe.  Here i was, at heart just a poor kid from a small town in Wisconsin.....sixty years old with gray hair and as much American History memorized as I could pack in for five decades or so.  I stood in front of THE Constitution.  It was dark.   I had trouble even reading any of it.  It is script, and faded, and behind heavy glass.....and it was dark.   Dark, of course to protect THE Constitution.   As we were told, even normal room light would damage the parchment and the ink.  

After a reasonable time, we all took a last look at the Documents...paused to look around at the regal surroundings of the Rotunda, and left, still in awe.  

Now, fast forward to Monday the 15th.   President Obama felt the need to hold an event to make some public statement.  Where did he choose to do this?  In the Rotunda of Document Hall of course.    So, for that day, the visiting public was kept away from their Constitution and all the other Documents.  The camera crews moved in bringing with them all the light bars, light towers, cameras and more lights.   There was a test period, just to get the lights right.  Before the President arrived the lights had to be retested and warmed up.  If you have been on a live television set you know how bright and clean the lighting must be in order to look "normal" on your set at home.     When the President arrived the lights were still on, blazing away on the star of the show.....and oh, yes......the Documents.  

The next day, I'm sure the guards lined visitors up and began their litany again, "The Rotunda is darkened to protect the Documents....."

In so many ways during these last four years our Consititution has been attacked, ignored and circumvented.  The ideas, the heart and soul of our Constitution have been damaged.   And now, its physical existence has been endangered as well.