Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Farewell, PFC Thomas Tucker

PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker
B Company, 1st Battalion,
502nd Infantry Regiment,
2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division
May 5, 1981 - June 16, 2006

As you all know, we lost three fine young men in Youssifiyah, Iraq - PFC Thomas Tucker, PFC Kristian Menchaca and SPC David J. Babineau. SPC Babineau was killed in the initial ambush. PFC Tucker and PFC Menchaca were kidnapped, brutalized to a point that the only way to identify the body parts was through DNA testing, then left with their remains booby-trapped. In the search to recover them, another soldier was killed and several were wounded. The following statement was released at the time: "We announce the good news to our Islamic nation that God's will was executed and the two crusader animals we had in captivity were slaughtered"..."And God has given our Emir, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, the good fortune of carrying out the legitimate court's command in person." Are you angry yet? If not - why not? This is what these creatures would like to do to each and every one of us, regardless of our politics. We need to be outraged.

I cannot speak to the lives and burials of PFC Menchaca or SPC Babineau, but I can speak about PFC Thomas Lowell Tucker. He was from a tiny town here in Central Oregon - a town my husband went to school in - at the same high school Tom went to (though many years apart). We have enjoyed the same country, the same air, the same special spots. Tom pumped gas at a gas station during high school, at which I stopped at frequently...I wonder how many times that young man filled my tank and washed my windows? Odds are, he did. (In Oregon, you can't pump your own gas - don't ask why!) We were part of the same community. His wish was to find more meaning in his life - to do something important. So, he joined the Army. In a bit less than a year, his family says that his life took on new meaning. In one of his last messages home he left this on the answering machine, "Be proud of me Mom, I'm defending my country." His murder rocked our least for those who were paying attention. Why aren't more Americans paying attention?

I had the honor of attending Tom's Memorial Service. It was a memorable event - I will never forget it. It was a hot here in the high desert. The service was held in the Events Center - dead center in the fairgrounds - a long hike from parking. At the entrance, many VFW members greeted us and gave us each a bottle of ice cold water. The community was seated in the upper level of the arena, and the floor was seating for the family and military. Most of the available seating in the arena was taken. At the far end of the hall, the various veterans groups and Patriot Guard Riders were seated. They were holding numerous large American flags and during the service two stood holding a large American flag and a large Oregon flag. Along with about 5,000 others, I found a seat and waited in silent contemplation and prayer. Since Oregon no longer has a military base, the Oregon National Guard was in attendance and Chaplain John Dinsmore conducted the service. An honor guard from the ONG brought the flag covered casket to the dais. There were prayers, a Eulogy from Tom's own pastor, speeches by politicians - the Governor and our Congressman showed up - Brigadier General Gregg Martin told the story of the Fallen Soldier Memorial and officers from several areas of the Army kneeled, prayed and placed Commander's Coins at the Memorial. Tom's sister spoke and his mother's friend sang a song she had written for Tom. The lights dimmed and we were treated to a slide show of pictures of Tom throughout his life. The lights came up to the strains of a bagpipe playing Amazing Grace. He walked to a formation of the Portland Police Highland Guard, and they played as the casket was placed in the hearse. Then, they led the way out of the arena. The thirty mile drive from the arena to the cemetery had a caravan of motorcycle riders - about 400 - and numerous cars - about eight miles long. At the cemetery, the Highland Guard played and the Honor Guard was from the 101st Airborne. Tom was celebrated with all of the honors he deserved. His parents were presented with his Bronze Star and Purple Heart. It was an incredibly emotional service. You could feel the presence of God and his Angels. I saw every branch of the military in uniform, young ROTC cadets in uniform and Veterans from many wars. They had come to pay tribute as I had. Each of us was touched with tears and a heavy heart. We all felt the loss. But, we also felt the amazing grace of God touching us.

I, for one, will NEVER forget what PFC Thomas Tucker and PFC Kristian Menchaca endured for us that day. And, I will never forget their sacrifices and the sacrifice of SPC David Babineau.

I would like to share the poem that his family had printed in the service program:

The Eagle
The eagle now is truly free
Soaring through eternity
He found his wings and began to climb.
He was yours for but one moment in time.
You cradled him upon your breast
and nurturing him
You were truly blest.
You gave him values beyond measure
He gave you memories to treasure.
And now he soars happy and free
Still yours through all eternity.

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