10 November 2009

Fort Hood Memorial Service

I watched the service today on CNN.  It was nicely done, and the TV folks even resisted the urge to chatter during the ceremony.  I saw an estimate of 15,000 attending.  I was struck, beforehand, by the some of the never-changing aspects of life in the military.  There wasn't enough seating, and so Joe - the generic and undistinguished generic American Soldier - was standing behind the chairs.  And sitting up against vehicles, and against shipping containers, and on the ground.  Sitting back-to-back with other Soldiers and standing, arms crossed, in bits of shadow. 

These ceremonies are something that, although nobody wants to attend, nobody wants to not attend, either.  It's the exact same ceremony, with some minor differences in scale, that is held periodically on FOBS and camps and COPs all around the theater of operations.  Same program of events, same music (although one usually gets Amazing Grace on tape, rather than by a talented master sergeant, in the desert), same boots-helmet-and-rifle.  The Soldiers (and Mr. Cahill, although retired, was certainly a Soldier) who were killed at Fort Hood got the same sendoff from the Army we provide to each one who falls downrange.

Maybe that's why there was such impressive attendance from the Soldiers of Fort Hood.  These ceremonies are as much for the comrades of the fallen as for anyone else.  They're important, they help us acknowledge loss, and reassure us that if we should go down, we'll be acknowledged.  You go to a memorial ceremony because you want every seat to be full, you want to be a part of a demonstration that a fallen comrade won't be forgotten, and is being honored not by a commander and a couple of others, but by the entire community of warriors.

I'm glad it was packed.  It was a fine farewell.