Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Funeral

The Airman's Creed

I am an American Airmen.
I am a warrior.
I have answered my nations's call.
I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage,
a tradition of honor,
and a legacy of valor.
I am an American Airman,
Guardian of freedom and justice,
My nation's sword and shield,
its sentry and avenger.
I defend my country with my life.
I am an American Airman:
Wingman, leader, warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.

This was on the inside of the memorial pamphlet (not sure what to call this) and it describes my Grandfather to a tee. My Grandfather was a World War II Army Air Corps veteran who served as an aerial gunner in the Pacific Theater. He retired as a Chief Master Sergeant with the U.S. Air Force and then he went to serve for the Maryland Air National Guard.

As a kid most of the stories (there were alot) he would tell us were from his time in service. He told us how during the War he was a belly gunner but in order to make the planes lighter and faster the belly gun was taken out so he spent most of his time doing misc. jobs on the plane including flying it while the pilot would rest. The most memorable story for me and probably for him as well was the one of how he was part of the bombing on Hiroshima (SP?). In order for the main plane to get close enough to drop the atomic bomb two other planes had to go in first and take out some of their bases. One of those planes was the one my Grandfather served on. They were able to get in and do their job successfully which allowed the third plane to get in and successfully drop their bomb. The following day my Grandfathers group was sent back in to photograph the bombed area. They placed the camera where the belly gun would normally go. Since he was the one in charge of that area he was the one responsible for taking the pictures. Now I'm sure back then he was not supposed to do this but he kept one of the pictures taken of Hisoshima for himself. If you have ever seen the photograph that appeared on the cover of TIME magazine then you've seen the picture my grandfather kept for himself. It is truly an amazing to see something of such historical value that close up.

Because of my Grandfathers love of the military my Grandmother had him buried in his dress blues with all his ribbons. At the cemetery the Honor Guard from Wright Patterson Air Force Base was there to serve as pale bearers. The casket was covered in an American Flag that the honor guard folded into a triangle in an amazing way. After the minister said the last prayer the Honor Guard fired their shots, both of my kids just stared in amazement during this. After that came TAPS played on a bugle. Our family is from Southeastern Ohio which is nothing but hills and farms. The cemetery sits atop a large hill and is surrounded by even larger hills so the music just floated through the hills and valleys. I think this may be the most beautiful thing I have ever heard. To conclude the memorial service my Grandmother was presented with the American Flag on behalf of the President and all the American people for Roberts dedication and love of his country. She was also given a small velvet bag with three of the shells shot during the service. I know that if my Grandfather could have said anything to us about his service it would have been how happy he was for the way in which we choose to honor him.

The last thing I want to say about that day is a very big Thank You to the men and women of the Honor Guard who volunteered there time to make the long trip from Dayton just to honor my Grandfather. They are truly special people for this.


Tiffany McCallen said...

That sounds like an amazing service for an amazing man! Your grandfather sounded like he was an extraordinary man. Thanks for sharing this story!

Mom to 3 Monkeys said...

How beautiful!!
My hubby served on Funeral detail for while. They usually fire 6 shots and the Army often puts 3 of the shells in each of the corners of the folded flag. They take the time to prepolish these ahead of time for the family and give them to them. I don't know if your three were given instead of wrapped or if they gave the 6 representative ones. (these are not the shells they fire, they just represent them)
Its a cool tradition and amazingly moving to be at a military funeral. I loved your description and the details.
My grandfathers were both in the Pacific too. I wonder if they ever flew on the same aircraft as your grandfather. Who knows but very very cool! You do him a great honor by describing some of his amazing life here. Thanks for sharing!

Blarney said...

Great post! Grandpa was smiling down on you through the whole thing just as he is as you write about him. (((HUGS)))