Vicki Pierce

HE DIED FOR US
In Memory Of Specialist James M. Kiehl

He was a soldier
Proud of his country, proud to serve it
Proud of his parents, proud of his wife
Proud to await the birth of his first child, his son
The son who will never look into his father’s eyes.

The front of the church, the dais, the pulpit
Awash in red, white and blue blossoms
His fatigues, his boots, his helmet, his gun, his portrait
A broken heart of chrysanthemums
His casket proudly bathed in Stars and Stripes

His young wife is stoic and brave, as he was
Her chin held high in defiance of those who killed him
His parents sit proudly in respect of their only child
Silent tears of loss flow rather than open sobs
His father wears blue rather than black
James wouldn’t have wanted sobs or black, he says

The congregation is crowded with friends and family
His teachers, community leaders, strangers
Soldiers from all branches in all ranks
Soldiers, there to pay tribute to one of their own
To their brother fallen in duty to his country
Their country
Our country

The hymns are old and mostly familiar,
Particularly the last
“My country, ‘tis of thee, sweet land of liberty”
Sung loudly, proudly, around choked tears

The drive to the cemetery is slow and reverent
Led by a long caravan of flashing lights,
Texas Rangers, firemen, policemen
Vehicles on the road are stopped, hushed and stilled
Drivers stand outside them, silently
All place their hands over their hearts
Most hold flags

Veterans stand at attention, some salute
A UPS courier stands beside her truck,
Tears running down her cheeks
Shopkeepers and customers come outside
All place their hands over their hearts
Most hold flags on the lonely side road to the Texas Ranger cemetery
The silence is deafening
No roaring engines, no airplanes, no laughter of children
Only a single church bell, the rustle of leaves,
The quiet flap of flags in the breeze

Hundred of flags, perhaps thousands
In the hands of teenagers
In the hands of young children
Standing bravely at attention, looking straight ahead
25 feet apart on both sides of the curbless, country road
Two and a half miles of patriots giving honor to their fallen brother

Bag pipes welcome the crowd
A highly-decorated color guard carry him
A twenty-one gun salute announces his departure
Twin trumpets play “Taps” as his sending song

The pristine perfection of the flag
Folded and presented to his wife, his parents
His flag
Our flag

White roses and a single red left atop the polished wood
Embraces of pain
Whispers of heartfelt sorrow
The long walk back begins

He died with eight of his brothers
So we can live in freedom
He died so that others need not fear death
At the hands of their own leader
He died so that his son would not have to grow up in a world of terrorism.

He is our son; he belongs to all of us.
And he has given his life in service to our country.
Mourn him and honor his sacrifice
Honor those who have gone before
Honor those who will go after.

He died for us.