I stood in the middle of the street with hundreds of others. Some of the faces, I knew. Most, I did not.
We were waiting for a soldier to return home.
The crowd was talking, murmuring amongst themselves.
Many had been there waiting for a very long time. Others left work as permitted to join the community gathered.
The faces around me were so varied, so different, and yet….familiar. You could see the purpose on everyone’s faces. Though there were some smiles, they were smiles of hello towards a friendly face, a familiar face, or strangers.
Flags were everywhere.
Such respect and dignity from everyone, towards everyone.
Then, a great hush fell on all of the people.
And he returned to his hometown.
I didn’t know him, I had never met him, or his family.
But as motorcycles with grim faced officers led the way we all knew who he was and why we were standing there in respect and grief.
Veteran’s Motorcycle Honor Guards with somber knowledge that it could have been any one of them came by the hundreds.
The only sound I could hear, even over the roar of the motorcycles, was the crying of the people.
The sober and mournful wave washed over us, through us, each and every one.
We stood as still as possible, as he passed us in his flag covered casket.
It seems so little, this grief I carry for him and his family, for the return that he paid. I am grateful for his service. I am humbled by his sacrifice. I feel guilty for the price he paid.
The hush remained as he passed us. Each of us waiting until the last vehicle of the procession passed.
Quietly, we dispersed, to the world he has left behind.
He is home.
U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Collette
Killed in action on March 21 in Afghanistan,
Along with Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colorado