Have you ever really thought through the association between honor and sacrifice? For some it is all to real, sudden, and unavoidable. I am not sure where your mind may go with that but let me tell you were mine goes. This past Thursday my Father and I attended a viewing in New Jersey. Let me explain…
My Father is a retired Police Officer of 25 years on the street in a city that, well, it ain’t Mayberry anymore. My Dad never really sought to pursue rank or rise to chief, he wanted to stay on the street. Which he did for over 20 years. My Father was a cop among cops and has the scares, broken bones, newspaper clippings, and peoples lives that he has saved to prove it. He was, and is, no joke. After he turned 40 he became interested in joining the SWAT team and at ae 43 earned a spot on the team, where he served for a number of years.
During this time, I grew up and saw my Dad do many different things, I was intrenched in this part of his life. I remember times when he came home after a fight, busted up or with his arm in a cast and I would help by unlacing his boots and help get his bullet proof vest off. Talk about a kid thinking his Dad was a superhero. That was me.
One of the most memorable times during this was when a Police Officer in the city of Philadelphia was killed in the line of duty. My Father took me out of school and had me accompany him to the funeral. He wanted me to see what honor and sacrifice looked like. (I think he knew then that I was going to be in the Marines, even though I didn’t yet.) I remember trying to count the number of Police Officers that came to show HONOR to this man, to the profession and to his family. It seemed as if there were legions of them. I remember seeing cars from states as far out as Colorado. The funeral procession looked like a parade with pomp and circumstance. I will never forget that.
A number of years later my Dad and I drove back to New Jersey to be present with a high number of Police Officers that were all present to honor and give their respects to a man who had died. It was a little bit different then what I remember from the funeral in Philly. He was not killed in the line of duty, it was cancer this time. He was 42 and left behind a beautiful wife and what I believe to be, at the time, a 5-year-old son.
My Dad knew this Officer through SWAT. He was on the SWAT team from the neighboring town and they trained together when different teams get together to train for big “jobs”, which they carried out together.
When I was a child I did not understand the things of men, though my Father sought desperately to teach them to me. He knew that though he wanted to shield me from the hardness of life, that is what tempers a man. Now I am no longer a child and have seen sacrifice as it is paid on the battlefield and in the most grueling training of preparation.
As a child I saw the highest of honor paid to a man and understood little of his sacrifice and that of his family. I saw the numbers of men who came and saw the uniforms in which they dress themselves for the highest of occasions in row upon row and my mouth was left open and my mind wondering because I could not grasp it.
Years passed and as a man, I witnessed and took part in showing honor to a man and his family. Not because the masses were that of legions but because there were dozens of men present who were on the SWAT team with this man, who had trained with him doing the same drills countless times to prepare for the highest of risks. I was there to show honor because I understood it and was able to hold my head high in hopes that I might be counted among them who serve and have served well. But the whole while my hands and eyes were held low because, as a man, I understand the sacrifice that goes along with honor.
While we all were grateful the honor we could bestow we were broken for his wife and his son. As a man my mouth now is closed and trembles, my mind now grasps and prays, my hands now weaken with gentleness and with all confidence salute a closed casket.
This young man, 5 years old, may not ever have some of the memories that I have had with my Father. While that breaks my heart I pray that those who are around him remind him often of the honor that he witnessed that day, remind him daily for if he forgets that honor the sacrifice that he understands so well at so young an age will overwhelm it and honor will seem like such a little thing.
The true depth of sorrow will come when a man remembers only the greatest of sacrifices without the honor that they were made for.
Live honorably and the sacrifices will be many, but the honor is always worth it. ALWAYS!