NOTE: I didn't post this last week as Governor Huntsman has a personal message to deliver to Scott's wife. In case he hasn't yet been to the Lundell home, please do not say anything to Jeanine.
Last night was Scott’s memorial service at Phoenix. It was a wonderful, inspirational service but I hope I never have to experience one again. Governor Huntsman is here in country visiting soldiers from Utah so we waited for him to arrive from a visit with President Karzai. Apparently he is a personal friend of President Karzai and has entertained the President at his home in Salt Lake.
At the front of the room was a memorial to Scott. I’ll include a picture so you can see what it looked like. But, there was a pair of boots, an M4 with fixed bayonet, dog tags hanging from the M4, a Kevlar helmet sitting atop the rifle, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart and the other medals he earned here were being awarded, as well as a picture of Scott taken in the field. SGT Stewart, our group leader, placed a set of scriptures there as well. It was simple but very powerful. As was later explained, the boots, the helmet, the weapon and the dog tags are the tools of the soldiers trade and were there to serve as a reminder.
Since we got there early, it gave us the opportunity to see “old friends” from home. As Stoney commented, it takes a wedding and a funeral to get the “family” together. It was a bittersweet moment seeing friends from home, friends that we haven’t seen since we all left Phoenix. I know I wasn’t the only one who would have preferred not seeing them if it had to be under these circumstances. But it was still good to see them.
As the time for the service drew near, I was impressed to see the room fill to standing room only. I wasn’t sure just how many people would come to pay their respects but was proud to see fellow Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, Navy personnel and even civilians sitting and standing as we waited to pay our last respects.
Governor Huntsman finally arrived and the service began. BG Pritt, Governor Huntsman, COL Acton, CSM Stone, LT Austin and the Chaplain all approached the stand. COL Acton was obviously being affected by what was about to transpire. Before the service began we had talked about the emotions that he must be going through. While he had absolutely no control over the situation, we all knew, because we know him, that he would be feeling responsible for the loss of Scott. We all knew that his goal was to bring everyone home together and now, one of us was returning home before the rest of us.
On the program it said that we would start with an invocation. Now don’t take this wrong, but I didn’t want the Chaplain to “read” a prayer that he had written. I wanted to hear a prayer offered from the heart. I wasn’t to be disappointed. That’s why LT Austin was on the stand. He was a friend of Scott’s from Shelby. His wife and Scott’s wife are friends at home so it was only fitting that he should give the invocation. LT Austin offered a beautiful, from-the-heart prayer on behalf of Scott, his family and the service that was about to begin. I know it’s silly but I was so grateful that an LDS style prayer was offered for an LDS soldier; it was inspired and from the heart.
BG Pritt spoke first, detailing Scott’s life and service. Even though BG Pritt didn’t know Scott, you’d never guess. His remarks were warm and personal. It was obvious that BG Pritt cared for Scott and was saddened by his death. He paid tribute to the heroism Scott displayed. He talked about how after 9-11 Scott’s goal in life was to serve his country in order to keep it and his family safe. He mentioned how Scott had started a business with the goal of selling it so that he could use the proceeds to support his family while he completed his military training. He talked about Scott’s desire to join the Special Forces. He praised Scott’s work ethic; telling us of his dedication to this mission and to the ANA. Scott never did anything half-hearted and was a man among men. He was a large man, both in spirit and in stature and commanded respect from everyone he met, and yet, despite his imposing size, he was a kind and gentle man. BG Pritt then talked about Scott’s love for his family; his wife Jeanine and his children Adam, Allison, Logan and Liberty. I know all thoughts were with his family at their mention and I know I’m not the only one who feels the anguish they must be going through.
After BG Pritt, Governor Huntsman spoke. He too praised Scott for his valor and courage. He mentioned that he would have shaken Scott’s hand prior to our departure from Salt Lake and shared words of encouragement with him. Governor Huntsman then told us about the meeting he had just had with President Karzai. He told the President about the dedication that those that are serving Afghanistan are displaying on a daily basis. He then said that one of Governor Huntsman’s Utah soldier paid the ultimate sacrifice for President Karzai’s country. He posed the question to the President, what could he, President Karzai, say to Scott’s wife. President Karzai said that he was going to write a personal note to Jeanine expressing his gratitude to her for and her family’s sacrifice.
After the Governor, COL Acton spoke. The emotions were very close to the surface. He praised Scott’s valor, his dedication to the mission. He too spoke of Scott’s great love for his family and that our prayers would be with them. As I suspected, he talked about not being able to bring all his soldiers home at the same time and the pain that was causing him. He spoke of Scott’s dedication to the Lord. He then read a passage from 2 Timothy, Chapter 4, Verses 6-8:
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
I had to choke back the tears when he read those verses. I don’t think I was alone.
CSM Stone the spoke about the symbolism of the display and what each of the items posted meant.
The Chaplain offered a few words. The one thing he said that I remember the most is that “this life is a testing place, not a resting place.” I was really struck by that comment. Life is not meant to be easy. We don’t always understand why things happen. We may never understand until that day we stand before the Lord but if we have faith in Him, He can make it easier for us to get through the grief and the challenges we are called upon to face.
Next came a photo presentation. The pictures showed training at Shelby, it showed him with his friends there, it showed him here in country, it showed him reading his scriptures. Then came the photos of the “ramp ceremony” and I once again had to choke back the tears. I think someone next to me even said something like “Oh no” meaning that the emotions that were about to come would be raw and painful.
The “ramp ceremony” is where the flag-draped coffin is carried into the back of the plane. The coffin is carried between two rows of service men, standing there paying their last respects. I understand it is a very moving thing to actually experience.
And sure enough, that’s what the pictures showed. But what got to me more than anything were the images of his friends and fellow soldiers kneeling at the side of his coffin in the back of that plane, heads bowed, offering silent prayers. I can only imagine what supplications were being raised to the Lord and I know that the Lord heard every one of them.
The invocation was next on the program. Again, I thought that maybe it would be the Chaplain but it wasn’t. The prayer that was offered by Scott’s commander before his body was flown out after the ramp ceremony was recorded and then played for us. It was another “LDS” prayer. For some reason I was grateful. It was heart wrenching to hear the sadness in the voice offering the prayer but at the same time there was comfort in the prayer. References to the atonement of our Savior were apparent to those who could “hear.” It was a beautiful prayer.
Roll Call was next. Aaron was sitting next to me and had told me that the Roll Call would be a hard one for SGM Hansen to get through. Aaron said he’s experienced one before and that it was very emotional. He wouldn’t tell me any more than that. At the conclusion of the slide show, I heard SGM Hansen call out “SGT Aaron!” I didn’t realize that SGM Hansen had stepped forward and was now facing the crowd. “Present Sergeant Major!!” came Aaron’s reply. At that moment I knew what was coming. SGM called out two other names and those soldiers acknowledged their presence in the formation. “LT Lundell.” Silence. “2LT Scott Lundell.” – SGM’s voice began to betray his emotions - Silence; except for the sound of the inhaling of breath as soldiers attempted to keep control of their emotions. “2LT Scott Blanchard Lundell” came the sob-filled call. Silence now except for the sounds of quiet weeping by warriors who were feeling the pain of the loss of this great man.
The roll call was followed by a 21-gun salute and then the playing of taps.
Finally it was announced that those on the stand and other dignitaries would “Render Honors” to the fallen soldier. BG Pritt, Governor Huntsman and the rest of those on the stand filed off. Then one by one, starting with BG Pritt, they marched to the memorial, did a left-face, saluted the memorial then knelt and offered a silent prayer. Then some small token that would be sent back to the family was left. A general’s coin, a flag off a uniform, something that was offered in respect and admiration for Scott’s service. After the dignitaries had their turn, then the rest of us had the same opportunity. What a moment, to stand their and render honors to this brave, heroic man.
Once outside, a flag ceremony took place. A flag that had been flying over Camp Phoenix was lowered, folded and presented to BG Pritt which I’m sure will make it’s way to the Lundell home. I hope Jeanine will know what the flag means to each one of us who were there at that ceremony, that we salute 2LT Scott Lundell for his dedication, courage and heroism and that our thoughts and prayers will be with her and her children.
This quote by General Douglas MacArthur seems so appropriate in this situation, “The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
I think the only thing I would add to his statement is that “the soldier and his family above all other people…”
To Scott’s family, thank you! To our own families, thank you!