RIP Specialist Benjamin Slaven
From Blue Crab Boulevard:
The chapel is packed now. Soldiers from the battalion, soldiers from the brigade, majors, colonels, even a general. Though they honor themselves and the fallen, they are interlopers, men and women who didn’t know the young man whose life is being commemorated here. There is a camera to the right, recording the ceremony for a family in mourning 7,000 miles away. There is a keyboardist playing “Hero” in a continuous loop. And then it begins. The National Anthem starts and roughly five hundred soldiers rise smartly, arms stiff at the sides, thumbs dressed to pant seams, feet together at the heels and canted at a forty-five degree angle. The song ends, and is followed by the invocation from the battalion chaplain.
Next are remarks from the fallen soldier’s friends. His squad leader reads his biography, his driver and good friend reads a personal statement. The company commander gives a short speech, and is followed by the company first sergeant with a scripture reading. The chaplain then reads his own personal statement. Through it all, most have kept their composure, but none are prepared for the final roll call.
The names of the soldier’s squad leader, truck commander, and driver are called by the first sergeant and answered. “Specialist Slaven!” Silence. “Specialist Benjamin Slaven!” Silence. “Specialist Benjamin James Slaven!” BANG! The crack of seven rifles fired in unison causes many to jump. Tears spring to eyes. They fire again, and again, and then the lone bugle plays its dirge.