Closed to the Public
The Boston to New York Delta flight 142 was ready to depart. With roaring engines our aircraft slowly pulled away from the gate, but suddenly it stopped.
The Boston to New York Delta flight 142 was ready to depart. With roaring engines our aircraft slowly pulled away from the gate, but suddenly it stopped. The engines were shut off and the captain explained on the intercom that we had to wait due to a ceremony that was taking place next to us. He said; “You people can see the homecoming of a fallen Marine who was killed over the weekend in Iraq. These brave young heroes pay the highest price so our country may enjoy freedom.”
The tarmac got very busy. State and local police cruisers with flashing lights arrived, along with a dozen military, a large unmarked truck, and a few cars, including two carrying the soldier’s grieving family.
Everyone knew what to do. An honor guard lined up, six pallbearers were ready as slowly from the belly of the giant plane a military casket draped in the US flag was lowered. In it were the remains of the latest victim of our war in Iraq, who had died thousands of miles from the shores of his homeland. The Marines placed the casket in the truck, and along with it the other vehicles, immediately drove away. The event was over. Our captain turned on the engines again.
The passengers in our airplane had watched this unexpected event with stunned silence. One young man beside us made the sign of the cross. We’d been confronted not with the immense material expense of that conflict but with the human cost, the extinguished life of an unknown soldier who was making his final journey.
It is unfortunate that the previous administration closed such ceremonies to the American public. In the official opinion picture-taking of such events would be “disrespectful” and would upset many people. It is remarkable that very few television stations or newspapers have dared to violate such an order. It is believed that the new White House will change this policy. Let’s hope that from here on no one will try to “protect “us of from the grim reality of wars. We Americans have the right to know the total loss of our tragic conflicts and to grieve over every fallen hero who returns home in a flag draped casket.
Laslo Medyesy serves with the Reformed Church in Hungary, based in Budapest, Hungary. He serves as professor of theology in the Department of Theology of the Gaspar Karoli Reformed University in Budapest.