Please view this "trailer" for the upcoming video "Warriors. . .in their own words". Be prepared to weep.
Sgt. Marcus C. Mathes, KIA Iraq (also served in Afghanistan), April 28, 2008, laid to rest Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, Florida, May 7, 2008.
Yesterday I attended Sgt. Mathes' funeral in Dade City, Florida. In a private meeting with the family, the Brigadier General sent from Ft. Drum and the Lt. Col. serving as CAO for Julia Mathes, Sgt. Mathes' widow, presented the Purple Heart to Julia and flags in engraved boxes to his parents. I made the Blue Star presentation to Sgt. Mathes' mother, father and to Julia.
The Patriot Guard riders stood proud as they always do --- what a great group of people. I'm getting to know them better at each funeral though I wish I would never see them again. Billboy offered me the back seat of his motorcycle again but this time I didn't "seize the day." As soon as the procession started I wished that I had. Next time I will. I wish there would never be a next time.
Sgt. Mathes' mother invited me to attend a Celebration of Life event for her son next Saturday. I told her that I would be there and I will. She was very composed throughout the services, as most parents are. Being a mother for 20+ years teaches us that life isn't fair, that we can't change things like this, that we must be strong; we grieve alone. The young widows are always racked with sobbing and I know they are thinking, "Why, why, why." When my father died when I was 34 it felt that if I could just cry hard enough, long enough, exhaust myself with grief, that he would come back. When my mother died four years later I knew no amount of tears would ease my pain or produce a miracle.
Sgt. Mathes' father and I talked about "getting it" --- how people outside the military community just don't "get it." They don't understand why these men and women willingly sacrifice their own lives so that others can live free. Mr. Mathes and I "get it" --- because we know soldiers, we know heroes. In his last e-mail, Sgt. Mathes wrote: "I am having a blast over here." It was the same with my boys. They loved what they were doing and were proud to do it. I was fortunate to have both of my sons safely return to the USA. Not so for too many families.
In Warriors, one of the soldiers says, "because I can." That's why I will continue to attend every soldier's funeral -- because I can.