final roll call|final roll call
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Die: Part One

Active Military
Active Military
October 30, 2017
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This piece will be three parts talking about the different traditions that each service holds for one of their fallen. The first will be a look at Final Roll Call. As someone who has experienced several of these, I hope to paint a picture for those of you that don't know and give honor to the tradition for those of you that do know. The next two will be the Navy's Burial at Sea and the Air Force's Missing Man Formation. As hard as it is to remember and write about such things, I hope that some of you find healing in the written word.There are very few things that I've experienced in my life that is as solemn and haunting as Final Roll Call. In Ramadi, at Hurricane Point, our services were conducted inside the dining hall.People that haven't been through it can't say shit because they don't know. There is an air of sadness, obviously. We miss our brother in arms. There is also this haunting aura of violence that sits in the air, like a fog that just won't lift. Roll call starts and everyone answers, except your brother. First, his rank and last name are called, no answer. Again his name is said, this time its rank, first name, last name, a helmet is placed on top of the rifle. The final time his name is called its rank, first name, middle name, and last name. Then its said. Rank, last name, killed in action on this date. Each time the name is called it's like a sledgehammer smashing your skull. It doesn't matter if you didn't always get along, where they were from, or what color their skin was. That was your family and someone just took him from you. Three volley's of seven shots are fired, Taps plays. Ten years later the hallowed experience still gives me chills and tears.The battlefield cross is built as the name(s) are called. First, the fallen's upended rifle to signify a break in combat. Then the helmet and dog tags to identify the fallen are placed upon the rifle. At the base of the rifle, a pair of boots signifying the final march to battle. A picture of the fallen is placed with the cross as well. After all the names are read, the members of the unit pass by the cross to pay their last respects.We walk outside, share a cigarette and get ready to go out on patrol. It has been said, that vengeance is the Lord's to take. Whoever said that didn't stand in formation hearing their brother's name called out. While many take several days to mourn and everyone surely had their own private moments of grief, collectively we would all leave Hurricane Point that day, go into Ramadi and look for those responsible. We are our brother's keeper.

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