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
A moving and most excellent tribute, Andy. Thanks for giving voice to the mixture of pride and grief that this day evokes.
Thank you so much for your kind comments, and you’re most welcome.
I read this last night at poetrynight to a small but enthusiastic crowd. I am grateful that my poem was well received.
Blessings to you and yours, Andy