I've always loved parades. In my beloved home town of Snyder, we always
had one whenever there was a rodeo. Other excuses for parades were
Independence Day, Home Coming, Christmas, the county fair and Veterans
When Desert Storm ended, I was a Senior in High School. My home town
had a parade to welcome back all of the local boys that had been over in the
war. Best I can remember, we had eight or nine folks that were able to make
it home in time for that event. It was simply referred to as "The Welcome
Home Parade". So one beautiful Saturday morning in 1991, I stood on the
square by the White Buffalo statue and watched the best parade I'd ever seen.
Vietnam Veterans provided the color guard and led the parade. Among
that group was my Daddy and I don't believe I've ever been more proud.
Following them, were the last two surviving local WWI Veterans, a couple dozen
WWII Veterans and a handful of Korean War Veterans. Fifth in line was the
newest group of local heroes, the Veterans of Desert Storm. My family knew many
of them personally because they were friends of my Sister and had graduated
with her two years before. Their group specifically requested to be in
the back of the formation, out of respect for the Vets that came before
We all threw confetti, cheered for the Veterans, flags were waving, a
spokesman from each Veterans group made a speech, the mayor thanked
everybody for coming out to support our local heroes. After that people
sat in the grass and on the curbs eating barbecue off paper plates and
enjoying each others company. When the evening came, everybody stayed around for
the street dance. The night ended with taps being played and the flag being
folded. All in all, I'd say it was a great time.
As I'm writing this, I'm somewhere out over the North Atlantic, heading
for Dover, Delaware. Sitting in the cargo compartment of my airplane, about
five feet from me, are the flag draped transfer cases that hold the
remains of seven more soldiers that have died in Iraq. I've mentioned before
that I hate to fly this mission. Usually, the remains will be accompanied by
an escort. Most of the time it is somebody that was a friend of the dead
soldier. This time, it's nobody but me. When we load up the cases, the
loadmaster has to sign for them. In the paperwork that I receive are
forms called "Convoy List of Remains of Deceased Personnel". It's a list of
names of the people your carrying. More than once, it's contained the
name of somebody I knew.
On the ramp of the plane is a pallet that I also had to sign for. It
contains the personal effects of the dead. Laying on my desk is the
paperwork that goes along with it, one folder for each person. These
folders contain lists of all the possessions the deceased had in country
when they died. Sticking out of the cargo net that holds everything on the
pallet is a soldiers back pack. Tied on to this back pack is a little
red teddy bear. It says "I love you" on it's belly. It's quite possibly
the saddest thing I've ever seen.
We will be landing in Dover in a few more hours. The Chaplin will say a
prayer for their souls, as will many of the crew. A high ranking
officer will make a speech about how important our mission is, bringing the
fallen back home. We will all stand at attention as the Color Guard carries
the remains down the cargo ramp and loads them into waiting vehicles. As the
flag covered transfer cases go by, we will salute the remains of seven
men that had their lives cut short while serving their country. Flags will
wave, taps will be played and loved ones will be welcomed home one last time.
I've noticed before that it reminds me a lot of the parades of my
childhood. And I don't think I'll ever be able to enjoy one again.
Welcome Home boys.......