My second Memorial Day without Handsome Husband.
When we lived in NJ we watched the fireworks at Ft Dix (back before it joined up to McGuire AFB and Lakehurst). There was always a huge crowd (the fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen), and we’d plant our chairs and flags and people watch and hold hands and breathe in our surroundings. There were always people to greet that he knew from the base. He seemed to know pretty much everyone, no matter where we were.
In our years together, Handsome Husband and I talked frequently of death and dying and what we wished for our memorial services afterwards. It was something that was very far in our futures of course, but we talked because such things must be spoken about, if only as a gift to the ones left behind, so that they wouldn’t have to wonder and guess.
Strangely, however, he never spoke about military honors at his service. He was a proud Air Force retiree, but he was also very happy when he finally left the service. The military had, as it was bound to do, changed since his early days in, and not for the better, as he saw it. I gave him a small plastic dinosaur once, to place on his desk to remind him that he was indeed a dinosaur in the service. He believed his job, whatever it was at any given time, to be of primary importance because somewhere along the line, someone’s safety could depend on him doing it correctly. He had standards of excellence, he knew the AF manual inside out, he knew the proper wearing of a uniform, the code of conduct, and I never saw anyone give as sharp a salute as he did, even in civilians (which is not necessary to do but if the occasion called for it in respect, he’d do it anyways).
Which is not to say he went by the books at all. One of the greatest lessons I learned from him is that its easier to apologize than it is to ask for permission and he lived that credo in order to get his job done.
His last position in the AF is the one that convinced him to get out fast. The office was a total shambles and the man leading it was not a leader and the morale was laughable. It colored Handsome Husband’s first year of retirement as he came to terms with it. Now? I’m forever grateful to his old boss, whom I have always referred to as Satan. And also the two bitches in the office whom he allowed to run him around by his, if you’ll forgive the vulgarity, non-existent balls. If Satan and his two bitches hadn’t been the way they were, Handsome Husband probably wouldn’t have retired and he would have gotten cancer and forced to retire and he’d have been stuck in the usual play of chemo/radiation/surgery rounds until he died. Thanks to them he tipped his hat and we sold everything and had 4 glorious years on the road. Thank you, Satan and the two bitches.
In spite of THEM, he served proudly and it was curious that he never spoke about military honors and I suspect it had more to do with his humility than anything else and I was bound and determined that he have those honors, so I planned the entirety of his memorial to include them. I and each of our kids had their moments to honor him but what brought it home to me that he was indeed dead was the Honor Guard folding the flag. My heart stopped as I waited for the captain to present it to me. I counted his steps as he approached me and spoke those words to me that we all know. On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of MSgt Charles Dearing.
Master Sgt Chuck Dearing. He’s the veteran I’ll always hold close. A man who showed up at my door one day wearing his BDU’s and embedded his way into my heart. He is in every broken piece of it and all the in-between spots of light.
He was always quick to remind people that Memorial Day is about remembering our veterans who have died. Veterans Day belongs to those who still live.
I never thought this day would be about you so soon in our lives together, D.
On this day. Everyday. Every moment. Every beat of my heart. I remember and honor you, my dearest love.