Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Roll Call Memorial

Originally posted 1908 14 Jan:

On Thursday, the crew of the USS San Francisco held a memorial service for MM2(SS) Joseph Ashley. This story in the Pacific Daily News, "Shipmates Honor Sailor", does a nice job of giving us the details of the service. The article calls the service a "last man roll call".

"During a last man roll call yesterday, all the sailors in the Auxiliary Division of the Engineering Department were present -- except Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Allen Ashley.
"The "brotherhood," as many submariners call it, gathered yesterday at a memorial service for Ashley, who died from injuries suffered when the nuclear-powered submarine USS San Francisco ran aground Jan. 8 about 350 nautical miles south of Guam."

This type of service has got to be, without a doubt, the most gut-wrenching, emotionally-charged type of service I have ever seen. For those who haven't see one... well, here's an example of how the Army Rangers do it (from rangerfamily.org):

"Once an Eagle" Ceremony
All Rangers (from any era) in attendance sit together for the ceremony. This may be conducted at the actual funeral, or at the gravesite service. If this is conducted during the actual funeral service, coordinate the placement of the "Once an Eagle Ceremony" during the service with the family and those conducting the actual funeral service. If this is conducted at the gravesite service, it should take place just before the rifle salute and Taps.
One Ranger, designated as the OIC, announces,
OIC: "Rangers, post".
Upon the detail posting, he then calls out:
OIC: "Report for Ranger Roll Call!"
He then reads a list of the names of all Rangers present at the service.
OIC: Ranger________
Ranger in formation replies: "Here"
After each name is read, the Ranger present replies with, "HERE" until a roll has been called for all Rangers in attendance.
The last name called, is that of the fallen Ranger.
OIC: Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
pause for a reply.....when there is none
Ranger_________(name of deceased Ranger)
After the third calling of his name, a Ranger standing in formation announces,
Ranger in formation: "Sir, Ranger ______(name of the deceased Ranger) who was "Once an Eagle" is now reporting as a US Army Ranger to a much higher authority. May God bless him.
OIC replies: "Yes, may God bless him. Rangers, you are dismissed."
And the ceremony is over.

Probably the most poignant example I remember reading of such a ceremony happened when I was stationed at U.S. Central Command Headquarters last year in Tampa. The St. Petersburg Times had a wonderful article on Army Sgt. Paul Smith, who laid down his life for his brothers outside Baghdad on April 4, 2003. (I believe that he, along with Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta, deserves the Medal of Honor.) Here's how the author of this story describes the "roll call" ceremony Sgt. Smith's squad held the day after his death, just behind the front lines:

At 8 the next morning at a spot a few miles from the courtyard, the B Company engineers held a memorial service. In front of them stood a rifle, stuck bayonet-first in a dirt pile. A helmet rested on the stock. 1st Sgt. Campbell called the roll of platoon sergeants.
"Sgt. Bergman."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Roush."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Brown."
"Here, first sergeant."
"Sgt. Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul Smith."
"Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith."
The company stood at attention. The soldiers fired a 21-rifle salute. No one had taps on CD, so they went with what they had, a bagpipe version of Amazing Grace.

I have tears in my eyes as I type this story, thinking of the brave men and women who leave their homes to defend our freedoms, our way of life, even the future tenuous freedom of those they fight. Whether on land, in the air, or on or under the sea, these warriors deserve our special thanks. To Petty Officer Ashley, Sergeant Smith, Sergeant Peralta, and all who risk their lives for me, know that my family and I honor you, and will keep your sacrifices in our hearts.

Update 2345 14 Jan: bothenook has a some thoughts at his blog.


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