Home Is The Warrior

By Robert Bruce Drynan

 

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She watched as the blue clad troopers escorted the horse drawn caisson. Bearing the flag draped coffin it moved slowly among the ranks and files of America’s fallen.

She had been four years old when she last saw him. She cherished memories of him holding her, playing with her. At the dinner table he spoke to her as if she were an adult. He read her bedtime stories from books that were his as a child.  She remembered his happy smile. And then he went away and never returned.

But what did she really remember from that time?  Were these memories planted by her mother? She searched her heart. Her image of him came from the photographs; solemn in dress blues, another wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt holding her in his arms, a wide smile on his face.  That’s the smile she remembered... a photograph!  She recalled another image of him and her mother, she all in white on his arm marching out of the church beneath the raised swords of his fellow officers.  He was so handsome.

These are all constructed memories, she thought. The things I heard from my mother and from his comrades who refused to forget what he had done those terrible days in December of 1950.

I’m not overwhelmed by his loss. I still sense the terrible grief my mother felt. That, I can remember:  the sobbing, the gloom and then the feeling of emptiness. And finally, moving on.

Years passed, memories faded. And then one day, several years ago, she received a telephone call.  Her mother was gone, she had no siblings. She was invited to a ceremony dedicating Lt Col. Don Faith’s name to the new headquarters building at Fort Drum in New York.  She went. There she learned much more about her father; things as a child she never really knew about him.

At the dedication, they read the citation of the Medal of Honor that Harry Truman had presented to her mother in Washington. And afterward, she met with the few survivors of his battalion and they told her about the man they had so admired as he led them toward safety at the cost of his own life.

A lone battalion surrounded by an entire Chinese army, fighting against overwhelming odds, he rallied his men, always in the forefront, attempting to lead them to safety. Her father had been mortally wounded assaulting an enemy roadblock.

She surveyed her surroundings: Soldiers in dress blues, a general and the commander of the honor guard all waiting as the uniformed casket-bearers lifted her father’s remains and moved solemnly to the grave site, quiet commands cycling the men through a prescribed ritual. None of those present, but she, had ever had personal contact with Don Faith, who had perished sixty three years ago, and now, finally, had returned.

This is a beautiful ceremony, but it is the Army honoring its own. I’m here as window dressing. I hardly remember my father. Oh how sad! Gone so long! No one to cry for him at his homecoming! What was he thinking at that moment, she wondered? Did he have time to reflect on us, to say goodbye in his heart?

The next time you are near a military cemetery, walk in; visit a few of the grave sites.  Read aloud the names, branch of service, the dates they were born and died, where they died. Once they lived, loved, and aspired.  It all ended too soon.

 

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