I’ve just been told a heartbreaking story. And it’s one of those stories that usually end in total helplessness, but since I’m fortunate enough to have a forum like this weekly column at Townhall.com, I hope you’ll engage me for a minute or two and allow me to share this awful tale with you.
This morning, I heard from an old friend of mine, someone I knew many years ago when I was a young man in Ohio. I could hear the pain and anger in his voice, even after not talking with him in a number of years.
One of his closest friends, a young man named Nicholas, was killed in Iraq last month. This hero soldier had recently married his sweetheart and was home on leave when he and his wife welcomed their new baby into the world. A few weeks later, Nicholas lost his life in Iraq while fighting for his country.
As many soldiers before him had done, Nicholas had requested that if he wound up paying the ultimate sacrifice, he wanted to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington, of course, is sacred ground, the ultimate resting place for thousands of our nation’s bravest and finest Americans.
My friend drove from Ohio to D.C. to say good-bye to his friend. The ceremony was simple and poignant, the tears flowed freely. As the family left the cemetery, he lingered a bit at the grave with some other friends. They just couldn’t comprehend that their buddy was gone. Still can’t, in fact.
What they witnessed next was something that will haunt them forever.
With the family gone and the area cleared out, my friends watched as four civilian workers began to handle the casket. The honor guard was gone, the military escort had left. Just four workers and a beloved soldier, husband, father, and friend in a casket.
The men struggled to lift the casket and put it into the vault, which was up on some kind of a forklift. Evidently, the walls of the grave that had been dug were collapsing and they weren’t able to lower the casket into the ground. They watched as the men basically dumped the casket, like a load of garbage, into the vault. It crashed into the container, and the forklift spun it around like a top. My friend said there could be no doubt that Nicholas’ body would have been thrown around in the casket. In fact, he believes that the casket would have been damaged considering the way the men tossed it around in the container.