Thomas helped his grandfather unload the casket.
Any story that begins with that is bound to be funny, right? Nope,
Sorry to disappoint.
It is just a regular essay about my family.
My Stepdad, Thomas’s grandfather, Larry Smith is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Tennessee State Guard. Since the National Guard is being sent to war zones, the State Guard (which is completely voluntary) is filling in where the National Guard would normally be. One of those things is as military funeral guards. The Colonel has a unit of people that he’s trained specifically for that.
The ceremony requires full dress uniforms—made of wool. Therefore they practice in full dress uniforms, rain or shine. The real funeral could well be in the cold wet, which actually is not as bad as the hot and humid, in which they also wear those full dress, wool, uniforms. They have rifles for the 21-gun salute (using blanks, of course). They also have a trumpet that looks real, is metal and everything, but has a mechanism that plays the notes of “Taps” by itself. That way they don’t always have to have someone who can really play the trumpet.
Providing full military honors includes them carrying the deceased soldier to the grave. Since the duty is completely voluntary not everyone in the unit is as physically fit as they could be. Accordingly, they practice a weekend a month or so. Papaw wants practice to be as real as possible, so he asked the local funeral home director to loan them a casket, which of course he was glad to do, despite knowing it might not come back. At practice, they put a couple of hundred pounds in it and practice marching and standing holding that real coffin.
Since it’s not really being buried, it has to be stored. And loaded and unloaded from a storage place so it can be transported to and back from practice. This is where Thomas comes in. There was a practice this weekend and Papaw got two grandsons to take the seats out of SUV and put the coffin in there. As bad luck would have it, there was a funeral the day after practice and the coffin was still riding around in the SUV that Papaw had to drive to the funeral. Instead of possibly insulting the family, Papaw came home first to unload the coffin and had Thomas help him with the unloading and storing.
See? A perfectly seriously blog out of what should have been the perfect straight line. (And it’s going in the book. See my NaNoWriMo Page)
I want to close with telling you how proud I am of my dad—more than you can imagine. He’s not out on a battleground (though he is a Vietnam veteran) but what he does is very much service. A soldier should be honored right to the end, and the State Guard is doing this. Thanks, Papaw.