Today was the memorial service for a soldier in my husband’s unit. It was held in the Division Memorial Chapel, which means the stained glass told the stories of the 82nd Airborne. Bright, colorful scenes of soldiers jumping from planes and gliders, liberating Germany, patrolling in Vietnam, rebuilding churches in France…all while an empty pair of boots rested on a small wooden box at the steps to the altar. An inverted rifle supported dog tags and a maroon, Airborne beret. A framed photograph stood sentinel: “This is me. Don’t forget. Blue eyes and a crooked grin, okay? Carry on.”
The chapel pews were filled to over flowing with soldiers paying their final respects to a brother paratrooper and his family. The high-ranking stood next to the low as comrades, mourners, and men. There were ACU’s, the new mountain digi’s, and Dress Blues; Privates and Captains and Colonels.
When the family of the deceased entered and sat in the front row, I noticed the Dad’s face. He looked around and smiled. He saw an entire Battalion of soldiers (800+) in one place, gathered to remember his son. I hope there is a measure of comfort in that thought for him.
There were few of us, females in civilian attire. I was proud of us: black dresses, pearls, hair spray, heels. We looked as we should: the classic example of the beautiful, strong women who stand behind and beside our Men in Uniform.
I realized on my way home, after the volleys were fired and Taps was played and “Amazing Grace” was sung that we’re It. We’ve somehow, without realizing it or officially being tapped, become The Next Generation of Military Wives. We plan the events, we cook the food, we pass the tissues, and we wear the Grown Up Shoes now. Me. My friends. We’ve become a sort of Legion of Pearls. We’ve become “that group of ladies over there”, no longer “those chicks by the food”. We’re ladies.
…when did I become Adult Enough to sit at the Grown Up Table and do the dishes afterward, instead of running off to play?
I’ll write more about the service another time; for now, though, I just wanted to say that I’m proud of us, we happy few. My friends and I stood with our men in uniform today and we took part in the ancient customs and we cried and we heard the gun fire and we stood both witness and guard.
…and we did it in heels and lipstick and with dignity because, sometime, somewhere, we’d put on our big girl panties and became The Legion of Pearls.
Strike Hold, Ladies…Strike Hold.