April 8, 2011. Arlington National Cemetery. Cold. Raining. Somber. Touching. Respectful. Honor. Tears. Love. Laughter. Family. Friend. Comrade.
It was all of those and more. I wasn’t sure what to expect that day. Wasn’t sure how the service would be held, yet I knew it would be emotional. It was.
Dan, Ann and I arrived at the cemetery on that cold and rainy Friday afternoon. [Ann is the sister-in-law to Andy Howes whose remains were just recently identified. He was Herby’s co-pilot, and he will be buried in Arlington August 5, 2011.] We checked in at the cemetery administration offices and met Chaplain Hernandez who was performing the service.
As we were driven to the grave site one could see funerals being held in various sections of the cemetery. As I approached the canopied grave a big smile of amazement came on my face as I saw the laminated photo/identifcation card I left at his grave in December with Wreaths Across America
. I was overwhelmed with gladness to see it was still there. Someone, most likely whoever was prepping the area had placed it against the headstone. Usually it’s pushed down in front of the grave to keep it from blowing away, or being picked up by Arlington staff as no items can be left at the graves.
We took our places and then the procession began which was led by Chaplain Hernandez, and followed by The Old Guard members, and Arlington Lady
and Arlington staff. Even though we have done this previously at the burial in May 2007
, this time was also emotional. A much smaller affair, yet it was monumental none the least. Five teeth and two bone fragments were encased in the beautiful wooden urn and buried above the casket currently there.
During the short service I noticed a movement out of the corner of my eye so I turned my head and there sat Doug Womack. Doug is from the same Company and Battalion [Rattlers and Firebirds]
as Herby. Although he was not there at the time of Herby’s loss January 10, 1970, he came shortly thereafter and helped in search of the Firebird Nine One crew. He attended the funeral in May 2007 also, and I’ve known him ever since. It was such an honor for him to be there. Thank you for being the Doug!
I placed the red, white and blue bouquet at his grave marker which I had brought for the service. It was time to leave, and that was the hardest part for me. It always is.
If more remains are identified in the future the same burial will be performed, and we’ll be there if at all possible. Rest in peace faithful soldier and brother.
|Ann Howes, Dan Wade, Doug Womack, and Marylou Wade