Today brought such a mixture of emotions that it left me feeling just physically and emotionally drained. Of course the first and foremost emotion was sadness for the tragic loss of such a fine young man and the absolute heartbreak his family and loved ones are experiencing. Then came the awe of realizing that this 29 year old man gave his life in order to keep people like me safe in our country.
Pride, not only in our country, but in the citizens of Richmond Hill, was just overwhelming. So many times we think our community just doesn't give a damn. Well today the people of Richmond Hill proved me wrong. They turned out in droves - estimates at thousands- to give this hero a proper welcome home. The ages ranged from infant to elderly. There were businessmen wearing their suits & ties in the stifling heat and humidity standing on the side of the road just to say "thank you". Flags were everywhere - from little ones passed out by a lady with a patriotic basket - to flag balloons held by some youngsters. There were a few signs but not a single one about the politics surrounding the war.
While waiting along the procession route, the crowd was noisy - laughing, talking, using their cellphones and greeting neighbors usually only seen in passing. But the minute the first motorcycle escort came into view, you could have heard a pin drop. As the hearse passed our location, the only sound heard was sniffles and sobs. When the Patriot Guard riders came by, people were shouting "thank you" to these dedicated souls who ensure that each and every Military member gets a proper escort to their "home".
After the procession passed by, the roadside cleared really fast. But it remained very quiet. The crowd that had once been loud and talkative was now walking silently with their heads down. Just the glimpse of the flag draped coffin through the tinted windows of the hearse and the heart wrenching vision of the family looking out through the open windows of the limo had obviously touched every single person in the crowd. I don't even recall hearing a baby cry and there were several in the crowd.
The emotion I felt as we were driving home was simply gratitude. Gratitude to live in a country where people are so willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for our safety. Gratitude to live in a community that would turn out en masse to ensure a proper welcome home for a hero. Gratitude for the family and friends of Capt Freeman for allowing us to share a tiny bit of their grief in order to express our thanks. Most of all I felt gratitude for the love of God and all the blessings He has given to me, my family and my country.
Please keep the family of Capt Matthew Freeman in your prayers through this most difficult time. They are going to need all the love and support we can offer them. It's a simple thing to ask for a family that has lost such a treasure.