Flights of the Fallen continue to Dover Air Force Base
in Delaware. A river of the Fallen has been transported
to and then from that place; the river at times has been
swift and deep and at others slow and shallow,
but it has been unending – always.
Prior administrations claimed that Americans
would want to avert their eyes from the planes
landing and from honor details in dress uniform
slow marching flag-draped coffins onto tarmac.
One early morning in late October 2009, a new President
stood solemn vigil as eighteen coffins were slow marched
from a Flight of the Fallen flown from Afghanistan.
Now, we may watch and media representatives
may be present – if the families permit.
I believe we must watch, and hold these families
and their loved ones in our thoughts and regard
for as long as the flames burn at Arlington.
At Dover, a Center for Families of the Fallen
has been established. Near the mortuary center
with a foyer and reflecting pool, the Center features
suites of rooms for families, a meditation pavilion,
and a garden. At Dover, an architecture cradling grief
and promoting comfort and healing has fused to create
a sanctuary – a place where families gather, where
pride soars and grief wells up, and where these collect.
This is a way station on the journey to hallowed ground
at Arlington, to a national cemetery in a Soldier’s state,
to a family plot in a Marine’s city, to a cemetery in a Sailor’s
hometown, to a niche in an Airman’s home, or to a civilian’s
final resting place.
Even at this moment a Flight of the Fallen may be landing.
The loved one might be a father or a mother, a daughter
or a son, an uncle or a niece, an aunt or a nephew.
The inconsolable gather in the garden of returning heroes
to witness this return and to celebrate this life.
Andrew Shattuck McBride
May 28, 2012 ~ Memorial Day