What’s the most tear jerking moment you’ve witnessed while in the military?

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Mudassir Ali
Feb 25, 2020 01:50 PM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 25, 2020 01:50 PM

There’s been a few, for a variety of reasons, but the one that destroyed me emotionally was at Arlington.

Summer of 2009 at Arlington National Cemetery. I was a Section Sergeant in the US Army Caisson Platoon. We ran 4 funerals a day per wagon. We have a black team and a white team. So Caisson was doing 8 a day, Monday to Friday. All year day in day out we bury people. Crying familes is nothing new, you become immune to it. It becomes an everday part of your life. Kids, widows, widowers, parents burying their children, just another “day at the office.” It was an Active Duty KIA. Kid killed in Afghanistan, Marine Lance Corporal. My wagon team is tight and we take great pride in what we do. We give 110 percent in every way to honor the fallen. This funeral broke me.

(Funerals at the Chapel typically means people will come over to see the horses and talk to us)

A quick breakdown of how it works: my wagon faces away from the chapel ready to load the casket. I face the chapel so as to salute the remains as they are moving and so I know when to order the wagon “Caisson, forward Ho!” So as a section sergeant you see the family, unlike the riders on the wagon who face away.

(Transfer of the remains onto the wagon at the chapel)

Summers in DC are humid, and this day was no different. It was in the 90s and it was still and muggy. I remember the sweat rolling down my back and running down my “C-Cap” We know the details of the funeral, I look at our assignments and know we’ve got a KIA. They always hit close to home. Every funeral is a sad affair but burying a 90 year old vet is a lot easier than a 23 year old who very well could have been us. We are posted at the Chapel and the doors open up. The band starts playing and I render a salute, here comes the flag draped coffin held up by the Marine Body Bearers. Business as usual so far. The casket begins to be placed on the wagon and here she comes, out the doors of the chapel, the widow……she’s pregnant, 7 maybe 8 months along. This wave of emotions hit me. In my head all I could think was “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck” The transfer to the wagon was completed and we proceed from the chapel to Section 60, over a mile. My wagon approaches the drop site and I trot ahead to salute the officer on site and I wheel about to face my wagon and the on coming procession. As I turn around, there she is. She walked! Most families ride in vehicles behind the procession. She walked…..this miserable heat and humidity and there she is 3 feet behind my wagon. I’ll never forget that face. It was devoid of everything and yet at the same time it was a hurricane of emotions. Her entire world in ruins and yet she stood there silently just staring at her husbands casket. I have never cried at any funeral up to this point. When I left The Old Guard I had done over 400 funerals. I stood there rigidly saluting, doing my job, and cried. Tears came out that I had no control over. I tried biting my tongue to no avail, the tears just came out.

(This is me at a different Marine Funeral)

This is even hard to write, it’s taken me a while to put this to words. I’ve been to Iraq, lost friends, had the standard gambit of experiences an Infantryman has in a combat zone and nothing has affected me as much as that funeral. That woman stood there like a statue as the world spun around her. The worst part, was our next funeral was nearby, so from our tie up point we could see the funeral from about 150 yards away. Taps played and the 21 gun salute went off. The procession left and there she was, leaned against the casket. Just her and her husband. The world moved on, and there she was…….

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