Bringing a fallen soldier home
by Jeff Wilfahrt
Jun 20, 2013, 5:00 PM

What the Chaplain said at Dover

You do not want to go to Dover, at least not as a civilian. To be more specific you don’t want to go there to receive the remains of military death. Of course under the Bush administration you could not go there. No way did they want the public riled up about these deaths. But the subsequent administration saw things differently and now it is possible to be there.

And so we were on Feb. 28th, 2011.

On the morning of the 29th, the ramp ceremony having been conducted in the driving rain the night before, we waited for the van to return us to Philadelphia.

There are multiple chaplains as you might expect, but one of them is assigned directly to the family. And as we waited we chatted. At one point the chaplain said to us, “You will not believe how big your family has become.”

Of all the things we have heard in the last two years that was perhaps the most prescient. It has borne out to be true. Many in the military now see us as family.

And as I checked out the morning web news there was the funeral announcement of Lt. Col Mark Weber.

Weber is the author of “Tell My Sons.” And despite the fact that we probably live within a mile or two of this man and his family we had never met face to face.

So it was with great surprise this last winter when one Friday evening the phone rang. It was Mark Weber on the phone. He was calling to ask permission to dedicate a grant he was pursuing to our son. There is some irony in that since it was for the Boy Scouts, a group slow to open its doors to the sexuality of our now dead son.

Mark blew right through all the old crapola and cut straight to the point. Our son had served, he had died, and he had validated exactly what Mark saw as the right merits of citizenship, duty, honor and country.

We saw Mark speak this spring at the Ft. Snelling commemoration on Memorial Day. I emailed him a compliment on his speech, he responded in kind to our efforts to move society forward. Hence his intent to memorialize it with a dedication.

So tomorrow a family member will be laid to rest. It is as the Chaplain had said it would be.

RIP soldier.

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