Winds: Southwest 8
I am from Denver, Colorado and a friend of the Collins family so I was privileged to be in attendance as Robert was laid to rest this past weekend. It was an unspeakably tragic occasion for which no one - not even an Army family - is ever truly prepared. But within the tragedy of that occasion, I experienced something else for which I was equally unprepared. I had never witnessed a military funeral in the South. Before the funeral, my father-in-law told me that along the route to the cemetary 80% of the cars on the opposing side of the road would pull over and the other 20% would actually get out of their cars. For mile after mile, as I tried to gulp down the lump in my throat and fight back the tears in my eyes, I watched hundreds, maybe thousands of people out of their cars, out of their shops and out of their routines, standing in honor of a fallen soldier. I saw women openly weeping - not a few, but many. I assume none of them knew Robert personally but that didn't seem to matter. When a soldier from your community is killed in action, it IS personal. I saw soccer games called to a halt while both teams lined the field in silence as the procession passed by. I saw construction crews, auto sales staffs, fast food patrons, infants, elders and everyone in between pausing whatever they were doing to pay their respect. Of course, many did more than merely pause in place, but had made a special point to be there as Lt. Collins passed by one final time. I saw signs of thanks and pride on nearly every school and business that had a place to say it. I saw legions of uniformed police officers, sheriffs deputies and fire fighters at attention at every step of the way. Current and former military personnel were standing at a full salute and EVERYONE, regardless of income, ethnicity and culture stood side-by-side that day in honor of a soldier, a country and the reasons we are so very blessed that we have them both. I was unprepared for what I saw that day. This would not have happened in my hometown. This would not have happened anywhere else I can imagine but in communities like yours. I still grieve for Sharon and Deacon Collins and those for whom Robert's death hits so close to home, but my grief is nearly matched by the profound good I saw on Saturday April 17th, the day they buried a soldier of the South.