Not Just Another Funeral

Submitted via email to Weird Harold by another member, plez. Story self-explanatory.

A Fallen Hero Comes Home – Police Provide Escort

Thu, 01 May 2003 17:44:15 -0400

Please take the time to read the email below. It is a great, true
story. The letter was written by Senior Investigator Jack Graham of the New York State Police to fellow members of the NY State Police and to the Syracuse Police who, on April 17, 2003, participated in a hastily planned ceremonial escort for a soldier killed in Iraq. Feel free to pass this on. These are the kinds of stories that make us proud to be an American.
The abbreviation “SP”, means “State Police”, and it refers to a station. For instance, SP Loudonville, NY.

On Thursday, April 17, 2003 you participated in an escort detail for
GREGORY P. HUXLEY JR who was killed in action in Iraq on April 6, 2003. On behalf of the entire Huxley family and from me, personally, I want to say “Thank you very much.” Your professionalism, dedication and sincerity meant so much to the Huxley family, that words cannot describe their feelings at this time.

What most did not know was that the US Army had promised the family
members that they would be taken to Dover, Delaware to be present when
their son arrived from Iraq and there would be a full military ceremony
in Dover for GREGORY. Unfortunately, there was a communication problem
and they were not present during that ceremony.

Then they were informed that the body of their son was being flown to
Syracuse and that the funeral director could pick up the “fallen
soldier” at the cargo area of the airport and that somebody would help
them remove the casket from the cardboard shipping container for
transport to Boonville, NY.

The funeral director felt that unacceptable for a nineteen year old
young man that gave his life for this country and for the freedom of so
many others. As a family friend he contacted me to see if anything
could be done. We now had six hours before GREGORY arrived in Syracuse.

Phone calls were made to SP North Syracuse and SGT Nick Harmatiuk took
over from there. What you participated in and observed the rest of that
day was truly an outstanding display of what this agency can do in very
short time.

What happened was just visually and emotionally overwhelming.

The procession left SP North Syracuse led by eight Syracuse PD
motorcycles, followed by the hearse, four cars with family members and
followed by ten State Police and Syracuse PD cars. How ironic it was
that when the procession was traveling parallel to the runway, the plane
carrying GREGORY landed next to it. We were able to enter the planes
cargo area and remove the shipping crate from the casket and drape the
American flag over the casket. When the casket traveled down the
conveyor belt, fifteen New York State Troopers and the same amount of
Syracuse Policemen lined the path to the awaiting hearse – all at
attention. A hand salute was executed as six State Troopers proudly
bore the flag draped coffin to the hearse. After a short prayer, the
family was given some time to welcome their son home.

The entire airport was so quiet. I looked up at the concourse windows
and saw a hundred or more people. They were all standing, watching,
with their hands over their hearts, saluting a young man that they did
not know. Somehow they learned that a fallen soldier had come home and
they wanted to honor his sacrifice.

The casket was then placed in the hearse and the procession left the
airport in the same fashion as we arrived, only this time with a young
hero that our hearts will never forget.

The motorcade was escorted to the thruway entrance by the Syracuse
Police Department’s motorcycles. All traffic was stopped for the
procession and we headed east towards Boonville. After getting off the
thruway, we found that every intersection that the procession
encountered was controlled by State Troopers, allowing us a safe,
unimpeded passage. At each intersection, the State Trooper stood at
attention, saluting the fallen soldier and his family, giving him and
his family the respect that they deserved. How emotional that was to
see and now to reflect on.

When entering the Village of Boonville, the main street was decorated
with an infinite number of American Flags and yellow ribbons. As we
approached the center of town, all of the church bells began to peal at
once recognizing and saluting Gregory’s arrival. Hundreds of people
holding American flags lined the street, some with their hand over their
heart and some weeping for GREGORY for what he sacrificed, for us and
his country. As we drove by the village park, the National Anthem was
being played, for GREGORY, and I think, for all of us.

At the funeral home, eight veterans lifted the casket out of the hearse
and into the home with the family. GREGORY had returned home.

GREGORY’S family said to me later that the images I have just described
will always be etched in their hearts, forever. But the one memory that
will always be there first, was of the State Troopers at the airport,
standing at attention, saluting, with tears running down their cheeks
for their son, a fallen soldier. A hero whom those Troopers never
personally knew.

Our jobs take many different avenues in life. We hope that during our
day or shift that we have made a difference, a positive contribution.
On this occasion you did just that. An entire family knows that you
cared to do your very best to honor their son. Their words and
expressions told me just that. We made a difference yesterday, and we
did it well.

The rewards we receive for details like this one do not come from
anywhere but from the heart. Take pride in what you accomplished,
because it was distinct and without equal in this Trooper’s eye. I have
had so many good things happen since I have been a State Trooper, but in
those twenty fours years, I have never been more proud the New York
State Police as I was yesterday – A fallen soldier, a hero, a son, a
brother has finally come home, in grand deserving style, thanks to all
of you.

Jack Graham
Senior Investigator
New York State Police
Author: harold