Honor Corporal Justin Cain

Posted by politicalpartypooper on October 23, 2010

In the movies, you seldom see an Honor Guard with Military Honors displayed in anything but blazing sunlight, or maybe amongst the turning leaves of fall, as the sun hangs overhead. But today was not the movies, and the sun was nowhere to be seen.

Amidst rain pouring down like tears, Marine Corporal Justin Cain was brought home to Manitowoc, WI, as a family and a community mourned the loss of one its sons.  Justin was killed by a roadside bomb in the Helmland Province of Afghanistan on Wednesday, October 13.

There were no movie cameras or movie stars on this cold, bleak Saturday; just a caisson upon which Justin Cain’s casket was placed, drawn from the funeral home to the High School Justin had graduated from just four short years ago. There was no long line of limousines parked in a cemetery.  The birds were silent, the leaves were falling, and the flowers had gone away for the season.  To be certain, there were the politicians, under their umbrellas waiting to be seen.

A small child backed away from the caisson as it passed.  Young ladies bundled up in rain gear shed tears as they watched their friend’s casket roll by. Even the young men, some of them in uniform to honor their buddy, couldn’t hide their tears.  There’s something about a military procession and Military Honors for a fallen soldier that makes us unable to hide our grief.

Several hundred who had gathered outside the High School gym watched silently as the caisson went by, accompanied by a Marine honor guard, and followed by a riderless horse.  I don’t know why, but that riderless horse brought silent rain from my eyes. I overheard a child ask someone,  “Why are they all crying?” I wanted to answer him.  I wanted to say, “because, child, we just don’t know how to respond to a young man that most of us didn’t know, who was willing to give his life for people he didn’t know, and most of us feel guilty because before he came home, never to rise again, most of us hadn’t given one thought to him or the hundreds of thousands of young men and women who are at risk in war every day.  Suddenly, here he is, and here we are, and we can’t move from this spot until we have cried our tears of shame and grief.”  But I didn’t get the chance to answer that child; I didn’t see which child asked it.

I have been a part of one other service with Military Honors, helping an old friend from Georgia bury the son who had followed in his footsteps.  That one stayed with me for a long time.  This one will, too.  That day was sunny and overbearingly hot.  This one was cold and overbearingly wet.

It’s true; most Americans don’t give more than a moment’s thought each day to the soldiers whose job description it  is to die in combat if necessary. Military combat service is a suicide mission.  Thankfully, most soldiers never have to fulfill that mission.  But for the families and communities who lose one that does, it is days like today that will never die in their memory.  One of them was too many for me, two of them are too much to bear.

I looked at the faces around me, and, knowing that I had already been here once before, I tried to remember my thoughts from the first. I remember my friend, standing behind his son’s mother, with one hand on her shoulder, and one on his daughter-in-law’s, his grandson grasping to his coat.  I remember the Honor Guard; how many of them had seen combat?  Many of the members of the Ready Reserve, the men and women who serve the Honor Guard, have.

I recall the silence, and I remember the faces of the people gathered around the grave site. There was a crowd of people gathered at the rear of the group; all of them young.  I imagined they were his friends, there to say goodbye to the friend they would never see again.  The finality of it is brought to the surface as the bugle blares and the guns fire.

One young man’s death in a faraway land brings a community together like nothing else can.  But it’s a gathering that, in the end, none of us want to remember, and all of us will never forget.

I did not know Justin Cain at all.  But I think about him often.  Maybe not him, but all of the others like him.  It’s hard to forget the men and women who share like experiences.  You sit sometimes and you wonder where they are.  Are they scared?  Are they taken care of?  Is there enough of them to win the battle?  Is their commander capable?  Are we sending young people into combat without the right equipment?  The richest nation on earth?  Are we?

It’s 7:30 PM here.  It’s taken me five hours to write this.  Numerous breaks from the keyboard, numerous cigarettes, too many pauses and so many memories.   This one will not go away soon.

You get to share this with me tonight.  These things should never be borne alone, and, since my daughter is with her mom this weekend, I am alone.  I brought it here so I could be with you.

Do me a favor.  Don’t just pay lip service to Justin Cain.  Don’t just think of him for a moment and forget about him forever after.  It dishonors him and every one of his comrades.  If there is one complaint I have about the common American, it is that we take for granted too many things, but the highest of things amongst those we take for granted are the living, and the dead, combat soldiers.

They are young like us, old like us, Americans like us, but they do a job that calls for an uncommon courage; the courage to fulfill that suicide mission if in the end, it becomes necessary.  It is always hanging over their head; it never goes away.  It is a stress that pervades every sense, every moment, and every breath.  They live with it so that you don’t have to and sometimes they die for it.  Live instead with them in your minds and in your hearts.  Don’t forget them, don’t forget this moment.

I saw a community remember a son today, and the people who took the time to come out in the rain will be sorry they did forever, but they’ll probably never again take our nation’s bravest for granted.  They gave this moment to Justin.  They’ll never forget it.  They’ll never forget him and his comrades.  Military Honors aren’t like in the movies.  In the real world, someone really died, and when you honor that someone, you pin your heart to your chest, you swallow the pain to the last drop, and you never, ever forget the taste.   Ω


One Response to “Honor Corporal Justin Cain”

  1. mattpd said

    You did a good thing by writing this post in such a honest, sincere and thoughtful manner. Hang in there…sounds like it was real rough for everyone. I shudder to think that this has been repeated close to 6000 times.

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