Monday, April 1, 2013

Warriors' Watch: Helping a Wounded Soldier to His Final Rest

When I pulled up to the funeral home after school, I was greeted by the sight of several solemn-faced men holding American flags. I learned from them later they volunteer with a group called Warriors' Watch and that they were on an "Honor Mission."  Most of these men are veterans. They planned to stand outside the funeral home all afternoon and evening today.

This group had been part of the welcome home celebration for U.S. Army Sgt. Derek McConnell, who was wounded in Afghanistan in July 2011. He lost both his legs and had other serious injuries when he was hit by an improvised explosive devise. He spent 14 months in rehabilitation, including nearly three dozen surgeries, at Walter Reed National Medical Center. The group welcomed him to his New Jersey hometown for his 23rd birthday last fall. Sgt. McConnell was engaged to be married soon to his high school sweetheart. One of his four siblings is a student of mine.

Warriors' Watch stood outside the funeral parlor today for Sgt. McConnell's wake; they will escort his  body to Mass tomorrow at the church where the young man once was an altar server. The group, whose motto is "We have your backs at home" exists in part to make sure no soldier's family is subjected to pickets and protests from the Westboro Baptist Church.

The veteran I spoke to said he never met Sgt. McConnell, and didn't know much of his story. But, as a fellow veteran, he said, he wanted to find a way to show thanks for the freedoms that this young man died protecting.

After spending about an hour at the wake, I drove home, thinking of that line from Thorton Wilder's book The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

"There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

1 comment:

  1. God bless these veterans who continue to serve our country's best interests by protecting families from needless harassment.