Tuesday, June 08, 2010

My reflection on this past weekend

For those that have not heard, Matt's cousin was serving in Afghanistan, and after being gone only 3 weeks, Jacob Leicht was killed in action on May 27th, 2010. It was a shock to our family, and rocked us to the core. All week long, it felt so surreal; his story like something out of a movie. We so badly wanted it to be a bad dream. What made it harder is that we just saw him at Easter, when he and his new wife joined us for the day. And then we had a big family dinner just nights before he was deployed, so his face and voice was (and still is) fresh in our memories. He will be missed dearly.

I was able to attend the services in Texas this past weekend, and it was a powerful weekend that I will never forget! The amount of support that was offered to Jacob's family was unlike anything I would've ever imagined. People lined the streets, abandoned cars, stood in the heat, waved flags, left their stations at work, held up signs....the experience left my car full of sisters sobbing at times. I cut the video of our 1 hour drive down to 4 minutes, just to give you a taste of the amount of love, support and patriotism that this little Texas town showed us.

But first, I thought I would leave it to the 2 writers in our family, Matt's uncle and cousin to explain in detail what we went through on Saturday.

First, from Jonathan, Jacob's older brother -

It was the funeral procession, however, that was like nothing ever seen before. If you witnessed it, you know what I am talking about. If you missed it, I am so sorry, because you may never see anything like it again, but allow me to describe it to you from our perspective. As we left the church for the grave site, we had well over a hundred members of the Patriot Guard on their motorcycles leading the way, their function being to surround the church and the gravesite to protect the family from any hecklers or anti-war protesters. I almost would've felt sorry for anyone trying to get past these former soldiers to disrupt the services--almost. As we left the church escorted by these guardians, in the limo directly behind the hearse, we saw the first few groups of people honoring us as we passed, including members of this church. Our first thought was, "how sweet of these scattered few to honor Jacob this way." There were small groups of people like this all the way down Goat Creek Rd to Junction Hwy, and when we turned toward town, the number of people increased slightly, especially by Walmart, where we were amazed that a few people had even set up camp in the middle of the road, waving their flags. When we turned onto Harper Rd, there were even more people lined up on the corner by Moore's, and we were truly touched that "all of these people" had turned out to pay their respects. As we travelled toward Holdsworth Dr, the numbers went back down to a few scattered groups again, but the support was still very touching. As we turned onto Holdsworth Dr, we thought, "how amazing that these folks would do this for Jacob and our family," but pretty much thought it was over.

About halfway down Holdsworth Dr, we were stunned to see that the Kerrville Fire Dept.'s ladder truck had extended its ladder over the road, with a huge American flag hanging down from it, and again we were deeply moved at the gesture, but again we thought that that would probably be the end. When we turned onto Sidney Baker, we were shocked and stunned beyond words--thousands of people, it appeared, were lining the sidewalks and streets on both sides of the road, waving flags of every size, many of them crying, but all of them showing the utmost respect and honor toward Jacob for his sacrifice and service. To say that we were absolutely blown away by this would be the understatement of the year. The vast majority of these people had never met Jacob before, but they were all so touched by his story that they endured the blistering heat in order to honor him as his body passed by. I have never been so proud of this city and its people, and I know that many of you were in the throngs that lined the street as well. I can't tell you how much that meant to me and my family, and we will never forget it. What should have been a five-minute drive turned into the most amazing hour-long drive I have ever taken, and thank you all so much for being a part of it. I know there will be difficult days down the road for us, as we continue to adjust to the loss of Jacob, but we have all been permanently touched by this support.


And now, Matt's Uncle David -

Nothing could have prepared us for the day we had on Saturday. Jacob’s
casket was being guarded by marines and they changed guards every half
hour. The respect and reverence of the Corps has been very moving.
When we arrived at the church we found that it was literally
surrounded by hundreds of members of a military veterans motorcycle
club. They were standing at attention and holding flags. I found out
later that they do this to protect the family from interruption or
distraction from protesters etc. It was ninety degrees that morning,
and they stood outside for the duration of the two hour service.

Three of the marines who were with Jacob on his first tour in Iraq came and spoke of him. I learned many new things about my nephew that day. He was a leader of
men and an inspiration to his unit. I remember him still as a seven
year old in shorts and white socks running and sliding on the hardwood
floors at home. We all learned new things about Jacob. At the conclusion of the service we headed out to the graveside service ten miles away. We were escorted by the motorcycle club who had mounted their flags on their bikes. We were also escorted by police and sheriffs. As we drove at ten miles an hour we saw what seemed to be the whole town of Kerrville standing in the heat waving flags with hands on hearts. Fire stations had lights flashing with the fire fighters standing at attention. Thousands of people had stopped their day to come out and honor a fallen soldier. Walmart employees on break stood across the street from Starbucks employees who had apparently abandoned their stations to come pay their respects. It went on like this for ten miles. There was a fire station who had pulled their massive ladder truck into the middle of the road. They had hung an enormous flag from the end of it and had raised the ladder so that the flag hung over us as we drove by. I have never seen an out pouring like this even in a patriotic movie. Texas and Kerrville have a special place in our hearts from this day forward. We saw boy scouts in uniform, families with flags tied to the side of their minivans, veterans and homeschool families all of them lending their support to Jacob, our family and by extension all the other soldiers who have died for our freedom.

At the graveside service there was a twenty-one gun salute. The marines took the flag off of Jacob’s casket, folded it and inserted three of the spent shells from the twenty-one gun salute. With great emotion they placed the flag on the lap of Leslie, his wife and another to his parents. Our loss is great but the time, effort, good will and more importantly, the prayers of countless people have used this event to draw attention to God and his great love for us. Only because of Him could this tragedy be used for good. Thank you for being a part of this for me and my family. You have been a blessing to us all.


Now that the day has been fully detailed in words, here's the video -

video

2 Comments:

Blogger Cara said...

I am in tears reading this. What an amazing experience. The sacrafice Jacob made is nothing that can be taken away. I can't imagine what it is like to go through this. It is pretty amazing to see hundred of strangers giving him the honor he deserves. It reminded me of the movie "Taking Chance". If you haven't seen it, it's one of my favorites. Your family is in our thoughts. Jacob is an example of a true hero.

10:28 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

I am in the same boat as Cara. You can't help but tear up!

Taking Chance is a wonderful movie! It shows what they do and how they take care and travel with the fallen soldier. What you saw with the town was just a portion of the honor he got! Imagine the trip TO Texas, or even the US. This is so beautiful and fills my heart. My prayers go out to your family at this sad time.

9:30 AM  

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