A Long Overdue Farewell

Corporal Robert Archer

Our little town marked a long overdue, solemn ceremony today.  In 1950, nineteen year old Corporal Robert Archer, of Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division was listed as missing in action in the Korean Conflict.  In 1951, it was reported that he died in a Chinese prisoner of war camp of malnourishment.
Today, Cpl. Archer’s remains arrived at Indianapolis International Airport and he was transported with full military honors to a local funeral home. 
I had to be in town to go to the post office and what I saw in town gives me hope for my country.  In downtown Brazil every corner was adorned with American flags while citizens, retired military, many members of law enforcement and local fire departments stood in small clusters, huddled against the cold, waiting for the funeral procession to bring Cpl. Archer to the funeral home.  There is an elementary school along the procession route and the children of the school were also standing out on the sidewalk, bundled up for the cold wait. 
On my way home, I met the funeral procession.  I have never seen cars pull onto a shoulder as fast as I did while those vehicles in the procession slowly traveled west into town.  Many people got out of their cars and stood quietly in respect for this fallen hero.  I was one of them.  As a former member of the military, I came to attention in a salute.  Miles of vehicles behind the procession did not attempt to pass the procession and many had their lights on in respect for this young man who gave the last full measure for our country.
While I stood at attention, honoring this young man who died long before I was even a gleam in my daddy’s eye, it struck me that this could have been my daddy.  Daddy served proudly with the 101st Airborne Division.  He wore his “pukin’ pigeon” with immense pride.  He went to clerical school at Fort Benjamin Harrison and after that, he was slated to go to Germany and then Korea.  Fortunately for me, my brother, and definitely my mother the conflict came to an end before he had to go to Korea.
My daddy died several years ago.  I still remember the discussion my brother and I had when we were planning what to dress Daddy in and what to place in his coffin with him.  We knew no suit and tie for him because if we sent him off dressed in that manner, he would come back and haunt us for the rest of our lives.  So, Daddy wore his favorite flannel shirt, blue jeans, and of course his suspenders.  To honor Daddy, everyone—myself included—wore a pair of suspenders to his funeral.  We put his “Pit Crew” jacket in with him, earned from his days of assisting with the pit crew of the Northview Marching Knights when my son was in the marching band.  He was so proud of those kids, and especially my son—who took up the clarinet because “Grandpa said it was his favorite instrument.”  We also put a pack of cigarettes and a lighter into the breast pocket of his shirt.  Even though Daddy had quit smoking decades before, he was always bumming a “goodie” from me or my brother.  And, lastly, we put his ballcap with the 101st official logo on it in with him.
Korea has been termed “The Forgotten War.” I am thankful for the turn-out today for this long ago fallen hero.  Daddy was one of those men who served in this forgotten war.  He was a part of the volunteer honor guard who placed flags on the court house lawn every Memorial Day because he considered it not only his duty but his honor to pay respects to those men we honor every May for their service and sacrifice.
So, to Corporal Robert Archer, I offer my respect, and my gratitude for your service and for the ultimate sacrifice you paid.  Rest in peace, brother.  Rest in peace.
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