Motorcycles escorted the soldier, his family, and friends to Miramar National Cemetery.
The published schedule indicated staging was at 12:00 p.m. As usual, they began arriving at 11:15. Older, graying gents — volunteers — coming together for a solemn purpose. For some, it would be the first time. For others, it was another in a series of events they call "missions."
Flags over Miramar
By ones and twos they arrive at the designated location. After parking, they shake hands all around, greeting familiar faces and learning new names. The most common conversations revolve around shared experiences and locations: the old “have you been…?” to some place or another. Low-key chats precede their serious purpose.
The reason for their mission was the death of an active-duty soldier, one who had gone to war. Like too many missions, a member of our armed forces had died and this bunch of gents had assembled to help honor the fallen. In this case, a warrior died not from enemy action, but by his own hand. Heads were shaking all around.
Then it was time for the first portion of the mission, standing a flag line: the volunteers stood at attention and held American flags as the casket was transferred to the hearse. Everyone could see the anguish of the family. The cries and tears hammered each of the men. After the transfer of the casket to the hearse, the gents mounted their motorcycles and escorted the soldier, his family, and friends to Miramar National Cemetery.
Volunteers' motorcade at ease
At the cemetery, because of another funeral, there was some downtime awaiting the services. Gathered in small groups, the gents vocalized their anger: “Why isn’t someone helping these young men?” “Why are there so many suicides among the young generation, active duty and veteran?” “Too damned many suicides!”
Some even stated that, for the grace of God, maybe they would have ended up the same way. The overwhelming sentiment, however, is anger. Anger at a nation that sends its young off to war and then doesn’t adequately take care of them after they come home.
One mused, “If there are battle buddies in combat, why don’t they have battle buddies back at home?”
Gearing up again, they moved down to the specified site for the final elements of the ceremony. Once more, the family's anguish hit everyone. Somber and solemn are inadequate to describe the scene. A few words from the chaplain, rifle volleys, the playing of “Taps,” painful wailing.