Rod Jetton: Remembering a Hero, Part 4: A Final Farewell to a Real Hero

(Click Here to read Part 1 of Rod Jetton’s 4 part series: “Losing a Good Friend”; Click Here to read Part 2: “Trane McCloud: Putting Duty First”; and Click Here to Read Part 3: “Living, Dying and Remembering”)

Pray for Maggie and pray for her family as well as all the families who have lost loved ones to this war.  Only the Lord can provide them with the comfort, peace and strength to keep going each day.  Watching Maggie at the funeral and seeing her strength through a very hard time makes me feel the Lord is already at work comforting her.

Arlington is a moving place.  Every American should visit that cemetery.  If you ever go to Washingtonand only have time to visit a few things, make sure Arlington is on your list.  Yes, the White House and Capitol are important and interesting, but they are not the reason America is strong and free. 

There are thousands of little white stones with some of the most important names from all over the country written on them.  Those people and their actions are why America is such a great country.  Many of those people died so we could be free.  I very seldom go to Washingtonwithout stopping at Arlington to look over the graves and see the Marine Corps monument.  I always stop at the Vietnam Memorial too, but Arlington is a special place across the river up on a quiet, peaceful hill that seems miles away from the Capitol and politics.

Trane’s memorial service was held at his home church in Alexandria, VA, which is just south of Arlington.  The Marine Corps makes you plan out your will and service before you leave for any deployment.  After looking at the program, I could tell Trane had it all planned. 

Trane had us sing “My County, ‘Tis of Thee,” three verses of “Eternal Father,” and we finished with the “Marines’ Hymn.”  He always requested “Eternal Father” at all our church services on float, and he loved our country and Corps.  As sad as we all were, the service Trane planned made us all proud to be Americans.

We then proceeded up to Arlington for his internment.  It was cloudy but not raining.  There were lots of visitors to the cemetery that day and they all stopped and watched with respect as the procession went by.  I had hitched a ride from the church to Arlingtonwith a couple of Trane’s buddies from his time as a company commander with 2/3. 

We talked about Trane, and traded stories about serving with him on the ride over to Arlington.  They were both majors and would soon be shipping out to Iraq themselves.  They each had wives and families, and we talked about how Trane’s death was affecting them.  Talking with them reminded me about how so many families live in fear each day about a loved one who is over inIraqor could be going soon. Too often, I get busy with my job and normal life, and I forget about all the daily sacrifices others are making so I can life in peace.

The Marine Corps gave Trane the honor he deserved at his internment.  Four big black horses slowly pulled his flagged draped coffin toward the gravesite.  It was cloudy and damp so the red, white and blue from the flag stood out against the drab dark background of leafless trees and brown grass.  There were three Marine platoons in full dress uniform along with the commandant’s marching band.  There was also a group of Marine Corps bag pipes players, which I knew Trane would appreciate.   

As we walked up to the graveside for the final words at burial the sun popped out of the clouds and warmed the day.  It almost seemed like a sign from Trane that everything was ok.  I saw a big bald eagle fly overhead and thought to myself how fitting that was for such a strong Marine like Trane.

 The priest said a few words, then the firing squad gave a three round gun salute and a lone bugler played “Taps.”  As each shot fired I just kept thinking this can’t really be happening.  I wanted those shots to go on forever.  Hearing “Taps” played for Trane was about the saddest thing I have ever heard. 

I have heard “Taps” played at the end of each day back in the Corps and many times at funerals, but this time it was different.  This time a good man, who was much better than I, was being laid to rest because he volunteered to go over and do a job he didn’t have to do so we could live in peace.

Trane died in a helicopter crash.  From what I was told, the bird was losing power and they asked some of the Marines to jump out since they were over a lake.  Trane jumped out, and with all his gear and body armor on, he didn’t make it.  The new body armor is ceramic and heavy so it makes it very hard to swim and you sink quickly. 

Another Marine was killed in the crash as well.  The helo ended up crash landing at the edge of the water, and the other Marines made it. 

I wish they all had made it.  I wish we weren’t at war, and I wish Trane were still here with us.  But being a Marine is dangerous.  The world is not a safe place and there are lots of evil people that want to kill all Americans.  I don’t understand why Islamic extremists hate us so much.  I guess they hate our religion, our lifestyle and our freedom.  History has shown that there will always be those in the world who prey on the weak and want power over others.

I am thankful we have heroes like Trane who believe in this country and devote their lives to protecting Americans and doing their duty.  They are always out there sacrificing for us.  Sometimes we are at war and sometimes we are at peace, but there are always Marines stationed around keeping watch on our safety.

I have a rubber band bracelet that I wear everyday on my arm.  It says, “Remember our troops.”  Sometimes, when I am busy and complaining about some small inconvenience, I look down at that bracelet and think of the hardship some soldier may be in at that very moment.  I remember how good I have it and I say a prayer for all those fighting for us.

A few years ago we took the kids to D.C for vacation and stayed with Trane and Maggie.  Before each meal Maggie would lead the kids in a short prayer thanking God for the food and it always ended with, “And dear God please bless daddy and all the Marines far away.”  We should all pray that prayer each day, and we should remember that each day there is a family that is hurting because they lost a loved one who was protecting Americaand keeping us safe.

If you get a chance, please go to Trane’s guest book and leave a message for Maggie and the kids.  They need all our prayers and encouragement over the coming days.

Click here for the link.

This has been a long story but Trane was a good man and his story was worth telling.  I appreciate all the kind words and emails I have received from so many of my readers.  Trane did his duty, protected our country, and I will never forget him.  I will close by writing the words to both the “Eternal Father” and “Marines’ Hymn” for you to read.  Trane lived by those words and wanted us to remember them.

Eternal Father

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to thee,

For those in peril on the sea!

God, who dost still the restless foam,

Protect the ones we love at home.

Provide that they should always be

By thine own grace both safe and free.

O father, hear us when we pray

For those we love so far away.

Eternal father, grant, we pray,

To all Marines, both night and day,

The courage, honor, strength, and skill

Their land to serve, thy law fulfill

Be thou the shield forevermore

From every peril to the Corps. 

 

 Marine’s Hymn

From the Hall of Montezuma,

To the shores ofTripoli,

We fight our county’s battles

In the air, on land and sea,

First to fight for right and freedom,

And to keep our honor clean;

We are proud to claim the title

Of United States Marine.

Our flag’s unfurled to ever breeze

from dawn to setting sun.

We have fought in every clime and place,

Where we could take a gun.

In the snow of far off northern lands

And in sunny tropic scenes,

You will always find us on the job,

The United States Marines

Here’s health to you and to the Corps

which we are proud to serve.

In many a strife we’ve fought for life

And never lost our nerve.

If the Army and the Navy

Ever look on heaven’s scenes,

They will find the streets are guarded by

United States Marines.

(Click Here to read Part 1 of Rod Jetton’s 4 part series: “Losing a Good Friend”; Click Here to read Part 2: “Trane McCloud: Putting Duty First”; and Click Here to Read Part 3: “Living, Dying and Remembering”)

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