Grief is like the wake behind a boat. It starts out as a huge wave that follows close behind you and is big enough to swamp and drown you if you suddenly stop moving forward. But if you do keep moving, the big wake will eventually dissipate. And after a long enough time, the waters of your life get calm again.”
~Jimmy Buffett~ this passage was read at the service
It is often easier to be an outsider at a funeral, someone who does not know anyone in the family. I attended, signed the guest book but did not introduce myself to his parents. My purpose for attendance was to show my support and respect for the family and honor and learn more about a hero. I was just a body, a nobody there, but still cared deeply for the loss of their loved one. I rarely attend family funerals, but a funeral of a hero seemed like the least I could do. An electronic billboard across from the funeral home with a heroes’ tribute, showed the sense of small town pride in this community.I arrived early enough to meet the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) and the Blue Star Mothers (BSM) before their presentations. For those of you not familiar with the PGR, they began in order to shield the Westboro crazies from the families of fallen heroes during funerals with their motorcycles and flags. Today, they attend military funerals with the permission of the family all over the US while they continue to grow as an organization, the Westoboro crazies have the same number. They arrived from Mississippi and Louisiana and there had to be at least 30 motorcycles neatly lined up. They all started their day early and arrived at 8:30 and probably did not leave until after 3. The flag line they formed into the entrance of the funeral home was impressive and gave a true patriotic feel to the somber occasion. The final part of their mission was to escort the procession from the funeral home to the burial site. These men and women, many of them Veteran, made me so proud to be an American today.
Inside I caught up with the Blue Star Mothers. These women, not only have sons and daughters serving and do great things, but also attend many funerals of our fallen. Their purpose of attendance was to pay their respects to the family and present the grieving mother with a gold star flag now that she no longer has a blue star on it. Often times the ceremony is public, but today it was conducted in private. I am amazed at the strength of these women as they attend services of grieving mothers while worrying about their safety of their sons and daughters. They made me proud to be an American.
I did not know PFC Matthew Wildes from Hammond, LA during his short 18 years on this Earth, but today learned a little bit about this hero, this boy who laid down his life as a man. Matt joined the Army because that is what he always wanted to be – a soldier. He joined in wartime, knowing that he may come home in the very closed flag draped coffin that he arrived in. But Matt was brave and he was willing to take that risk. During his last leave at home, he bought a neon green Ninja motorcycle and enjoyed riding it. He was quiet and creative his entire life with a sense of adventure. Watching the video tribute of Matthew, there was no question that he had two families, the Army and his blood family. He obviously had a great impact on both of them. I was proud to learn a little bit about this great American today. He will never be forgotten.
People stood across from the funeral home to show their support.