Ann Childress

Ann Childress’ neighbor at the time, Ruthie Rosati, took this photo of smoke from the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon.

(Editor’s note: Ann Childress is an author who had moved to the Smith Mountain Lake area.)

It was a beautiful Tuesday morning. Nothing unusual for Sept. 11. Bright blue sky, an occasional wispy cloud, the scent of late summer, kids jostling each other as they walked to school, breezes blowing curtains in open windows. A morning where I walked the yard pulling stray weeds that poked through the mulch as they reached for the sun just like the lilies and asters.

Neighbors began to gather in our driveway to form carpools for the 1,000 burial service at Arlington National Cemetery of our neighbor, a retired sailor who died in August. It seemed like an awfully long time since his death. It’s normal to wait several weeks after the death of a decorated service member to have a military burial with full honors — a ceremony that is entrenched in ancient naval and military tradition.

A military funeral honors those who have sacrificed much in service to their country. That day, honors were to be: a firing party, military bugler, casket team and military chaplain. There was to be a formal folding of the flag by the casket team in reversed rank to acknowledge that in death, all persons are equal. The folded flag was to be presented by the officer in charge to his wife.

Seven riflemen were to fire off three volleys because traditionally that was used in battle to either let both sides know to stop fighting so they could collect the dead or to scare away evil spirits. A bugler was to play Taps as the final salute played over the grave to mark the beginning of the last, long sleep, and to express hope and confidence in an ultimate reveille to come.

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