The funeral began at 0900 hours in the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, Virginia (adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery). It was Friday, May 25, 2007, a beautiful, sunny day leading into Memorial Day weekend. This quaint, historical chapel was built in 1934 under the direction of then MAJ George S. Patton, Jr. Its spiritually traditional, charming atmosphere was the perfect setting to the grand military funeral.
In front of the chapel, the Patriot Guard Riders formed their line of protection, each proudly holding a full size American flag. The Rolling Thunder lined up in preparation for the procession from the chapel to the gravesite. There were well over 200 family, friends, comrades, patriots, and those who worked tirelessly over the past 37 years from the Department of POW/MIA Affairs office, on-hand to welcome home and bury CPT Crosby.
Everything was carefully orchestrated to perfection. The Old Guard was in impressive regale for this full military honors funeral. I had no idea the magnificence of it all. Even as I write this, looking back on it today, chills roll over my body and my heart is overcome.
The service was presided by then COL William (Whiz) Broome, Pentagon Chaplain. He was a friend and comrade of CPT Crosby in Vietnam. For us to have connected with him was extraordinary, certainly a divine appointment. Normally, the chaplain would have been one of many from Arlington National Cemetery’s chaplain team, which would have been fine. But to have someone who knew Herby, and was part of the same helicopter company and battalion in Vietnam, was perfect. [His sermon available here.]
After the chapel service, the funeral procession followed the horse-drawn caisson with CPT Crosby’s flag draped coffin to his final resting place in Section 60, plot 557. It was an impressive long, winding ride through the cemetery, which gave everyone time to reflect on the thousands buried in this hallowed, sacred cemetery. Humbling, indeed.
Two of CPT Crosby’s comrades carried our mother, in her wheelchair, from the street to the gravesite. Another comrade pushed her wheelchair representing Herby’s Vietnam family, the Rattlers and Firebirds.
The graveside service was beyond what I could have ever imagined. The Old Guard so precise, so gallant, from the band, the pallbearers, the rifle salute team, the bugler, the Black Hawk helicopter fly over, to the flag presentation.
Accepting the crisp folded American flag from COL Broome, mom said, “I wish it were him instead.”
After laying white roses on the casket (provided by a son of a former Firebird) the immediate family was escorted to their limousine to be taken back to the Old Post Chapel. During this time each Patriot Guard Rider and Rolling Thunder member paid their individual respects leaving beads, POW/MIA bracelets, and solemn salutes.
Lastly, CPT Crosby’s comrades, the 71st Assault Helicopter Company, 501st Aviation Battalion, Firebirds and Rattlers, surrounded the casket honoring him with their final salute.
“Herby would have been surprised by all this,” mom said after the service. “He wouldn’t have expected all this hurrah, but he would have loved the attention.”
Welcome Home Herby. May you forever Rest in Peace.