Factual · Powerful · Original · Iconoclastic
You don't need photos to picture the procession of white horses drawing the open wagon carrying the flag-covered casket; the removal of the casket and placement next to the grave, the moment of silence; taps; then the three-volley salute. Then came the expert withdrawal and folding of the flag that is then handed to the parents. The parents appeared quite shaken, as you would expect after a violent and sudden death which every military parent knows may happen but can never truly be prepared for. I cannot pretend to know how they felt. But they bravely kept their composure, even as many a handkerchief dotted the crowd. They also showed their courage in what Mrs. McClung told an LA Times reporter last week. "Please don't portray this as a tragedy," she said. "It is for us, but Megan died doing what she believed in, and that's a great gift . . . . She believed in the mission there -- that the Iraqi people should have freedom."
It was strange to be greeted by two officers in my hometown whom I met in al Anbar, one on my first trip and the other -- who worked with Maj. McClung -- on my second. Strange for me to see them in Dress Blues; strange for them to see me in civilian clothes. After the ceremony I approached the casket, laid my hand on it and thanked Megan McClung for all she'd done to help me. Then I stood back and saluted.
They don't come any more Irish-looking than she was, and I had kidded her about the inherent conflict between her Celtic skin and the Iraqi sun. So I find it fitting to conclude with an Irish funeral prayer.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight that ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
Semper Fidelis, Megan.