Why do we mourn our fallen heroes?
In the words of Harry S. Truman,
Lest We Forget
“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid . They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”
A1C Zac Cuddeback was shot in the head by an Islamofascist in Germany last week. Yesterday he made his final return home to O’Fallon, Illinois. He will be laid to eternal rest today, March 12, 2011. Officiating will be Father Bill Hitpas, who also baptized Zac just 21 years ago at St. Nicholas’s church.
He was welcomed home last evening in a procession that made it’s way from nearby Scott Air Force Base to Zac’s uncle’s house in O’Fallon. The processional route was lined with 1000 flags provided by the VFW and placed by local townspeople.
Also lining the route as Zac came home were his soldier colleagues from the Air Force Base, a local Boy Scout Troop, and hundreds of people who just wanted to turn out to express their condolences and to offer a small thanks to Zac. Instead, to their surprise, Zac’s family thanked them for coming. These are the kind of people you’re likely to find in fly over country.
The somber military procession began at the Air Force base and rolled slowly through town. It was headed up by fire and emergency trucks from surrounding towns and over 200 Patriot Guard Riders who have made it their mission to accompany fallen heroes to their final resting place, and to shelter and protect the family from the likes of viral protestors from Westboro Baptist church.
Patriot Guard Riders and first responders
Earlier last week people, churches, businesses and schools all over town honored Zac in any way they could. To some people it might seem a perfunctory gesture and even inconsequential, especially in comparison to the sacrifice made by Zac. But imagine if Zac were your son, brother, grandson, husband, nephew or friend. You would feel otherwise. You would feel the small gesture was quite profound. And you would be grateful.
Also in advance of yesterday’s funeral cortege, soldiers and locals turned out to plant flags along the entire funeral route.
They began in the cornfields outside of town,
continued into town:
and through the suburban style neighborhoods
to the home of Zac’s uncle, where he laid last night.
If you’ve seen Taking Chance, the story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl’s mission as a military escort accompanying the body of a fallen Marine home to his family in Wyoming, you might better understand the sense of honor and dignity that overwhelms everyone involved in delivering a fallen soldier home.
There is nothing inauthentic in this journey. People turn out simply to bow their heads and thank the selfless soldier who gave his own life to protect our values and way of life. You form the natural sort of bond that we do with our guardians. It is not one that can be manufactured of – or from – cheap emotions. Rather, it is an indelible linkage to something in our life that’s good and true. It is at once simple and profound: a bond that requires no words to explain why we fight, and why we must.
Lest we forget.
Photos via Boots on the Ground
UPDATED WITH NEW PHOTOS:
New photos filed by Boots on the Ground from today’s funeral for American hero A1C Zac Cuddeback. No words required. (and yes, Westboro slugs did show up, but were contained by townspeople and Patriot Guards so as not to disrupt the memorial)
Rest in Peace Brave Soldier