This one is going to be a hard one, since I know the family. The deceased and my father were friends. They lived relatively close to us. I went to school with his kids. I can’t say I stayed in touch with any of them after I graduated, but still, there’s a personal connection there.
Military funerals have a couple of points in them where it’s hard to keep your composure. The first is the twenty-one gun salute. You can see the family jolt when the first shots ring out, even if they’re expecting it. You can hear the rifle team commands being shouted in the distance, so you know what’s coming. That’s normally waterworks #1.
The second is Taps, after the salute. The single bugle in the distance, playing a song that we all know by heart. If they’re not crying after the salute, they’re typically crying after Taps plays. To this day it gets me when I hear it. On active duty bases, it’s typically played basewide at the end of the evening. When I first got in I didn’t quite understand why so many people stopped in listened, shutting down any and all conversation around them. I understand now.
And the last, even if the family has managed to keep their composure, is when the senior member of the team carries the flag to the next of kin. You kneel in front of them, holding that cloth as if it’s the most precious thing in the world. You hand it to them, and you say, reverently, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army (or their branch of service) and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation to your loved one’s faithful service and dedication.”
I’ve always managed to keep myself under control until I’ve left the family and I’m out of sight. I’m hoping that I’m not asked to present the flag tomorrow because I don’t know if I can keep a straight face on this one.