I reported last evening on my radio show that Congressman Wayne Gilchrest had sent an email asking for support at the funeral of Petty Officer David Roddy. Roddy, who was killed in Iraq while trying to dismantle a bomb, leaves a wife and three young children. The Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest the funeral as they have done all over the country. The email asked that we arrive by 0900 and line the streets and asked that we all have American Flags. I arrived at 0840 and there was already a huge crowd in place (a few pictures here) and ready to deny the Westboro folks access to the funeral. The Bel Air and Abingdon Fire Departments had their trucks (those are the ones with the big extending ladders) and they erected the ladders across the street and hung a huge American Flag from them.
There was a steady stream of motorcycle riders from various groups. Riders with names like Sniper, Homebrew, J Dawg, and Rebel were in place to prevent a fallen hero from being dishonored and they were in such large numbers that the dignity of the family at their time of grief was all but assured. There were around 500 motorcycles and their riders, and probably 500 or 600 additional people there as well. The number of Flags was overwhelming and there was a lady passing out Flags for those who did not have one. During this time of preparation everyone acted with dignity and respect for the family.
We were given a warning when the family motorcade was in route and they arrived escorted by motorcycle police officers. The hearse was part of that motorcade and people bowed their heads in respect as it passed by. The absolute silence of so many people at that particular time is one I will not forget. The only sound I heard after the hearse had passed was the sound of a group singing God Bless America. We all stayed in the area while the funeral service was held inside the St. Francis de Sales Church. David was buried in the cemetery that is part of the Church so when they were ready to come outside for that part of the funeral, people gathered around the perimeter of the graveyard. I was fortunate enough to be right at the grave site where I could see and hear the service. As it would happen, as they were bringing the small box with David’s remains from the Church, a light sprinkle of rain began to fall. It seemed to me at the time that tears from Heaven were being shed for this fallen hero.
As David’s remains were carried up the walk an Honor Guard from the Knights of Columbus raised their swords in a crossed arch as he was carried through. The small box was placed at the grave by a sailor and we all participated in prayer. When that was completed the announcement to prepare for military honors was sounded. As military members, past and present, rendered a hand salute, the firing squad rendered the appropriate honors as seven sailors fired three volleys and then a bugler played Taps. The Flag was folded and presented to the family and I noticed I was not the only old soldier brought to tears by the event.
With that, a young American Hero was laid to rest. He was honored by people who did not know him but felt a sense of duty to ensure his funeral was not interrupted by people whose misguided views do not belong there. I believe his family, though in extreme grief, had to feel comfort in knowing that so many people had traveled from all over the state to help them say good-bye to a young man who made the extreme sacrifice so that others might live in freedom. I hope that our presence showed that family that they are not alone and that we, as Americans, are in this together and that regardless of feelings about the war and regardless of party affiliation, we can come together to do the right thing and give the appropriate honor to the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces.
What about the Westboro folks? Well, they must have gotten the message because they never got close enough for anyone to see or hear them. I was told by one of the gentlemen there that they had arrived and the closest they could get was a water tower about a quarter of a mile away. Our presence kept them from getting close and kept them from dishonoring David Roddy. We prevented them from spewing their hatred and we prevented them from protesting in a place where it is not appropriate.
To all the folks who attended I would like to thank you for helping the family of a brother in arms. I know there were a million other things you could have been doing, but I also know that for you, like me, there was no place else you would rather have been. God bless you all.Powered by Sidelines