I've noticed that my past few posts have not been very happy at all, but I guess that's just life sometimes. We just spent 5 emotionally exhausting days in Texas and I'm still trying to process everything that we experienced. We initially thought after driving all day Thursday (the 10th) that we would be able to sleep in and rest until Darryn's visitation Friday evening. We learned shortly after arriving that we would be going with Darryn's family at 8am Friday morning in a police escorted motorcade to Easterwood Airport in College Station (about an hour away) to pick up Darryn.
Friday was a hard day. The drive to College Station was actually pleasant. I sat next to Darryn's grandmother and we had good conversation...I think we were all avoiding what we were about to do. As soon as we caught sight of the airport the entire van went silent. When we arrived at the airport there were dozens and dozens of Patriot Guard Riders there waiting for us...holding American flags. We waited about 45 minutes for Darryns' private jet to arrive and then we went out to the tarmac for the "ramp ceremony". They had lots of military men there and one Captain who had been with Darryn since Afghanistan and stayed with him until he was buried. I can still see the flag-draped casket being rolled off the plane and I can still see the expression on his pregnant wife's face. I don't think those images will ever leave me. We were escorted back to Cameron and no one said a word the whole way back. When we passed through Caldwell the huge flag at their car dealership was at half mast. When we got back to Cameron the entire town was waiting for us. They were all standing at intersections holding American flags. We passed by the high school and every student and teacher was lining the sides of the street with flags. It was surreal and just the homecoming that Darryn deserved.
We then spent time at the funeral home where the Army Captain who had travelled with Darryn from Afghanistan informed us exactly how Darryn died. Darryn was in the second hummer in a line of hummers and the first one hit some kind of explosive. They all got out to secure the perimeter and Darryn saw that they were getting attacked by a rocket propelled grenade launcher. He physically pushed 3 guys out of the way, saving 2 of them. The 3rd died a few days later. I can't think of anything more heroic than that.
As a side note, central Texas had been in drought conditions for about 3 months with little to no rain. Shortly after we picked up Darryn, it started raining...and I mean raining. It rained pretty much the entire time we were there. They intially told us to prepare for war protestors, as they had purchased permits to protest outside of Darryn's service. I think the rain was a factor in keeping them away. How can you not believe that God and Darryn played a part in that weather?! It was definitely representative of the mood.
Friday night was the visitation. So many people came out (in the rain) to pay their respects. Saturday afternoon was the funeral service and they estimate around 600 people attended. The little First Baptist Church in Cameron has probably never had to accomodate so many people. It was such a nice service. There were 20 or so military people there and Darryn's family was presented with some awards (Purple Heart and Bronze Star) and Darryn's dogtags. I don't think I've ever felt so patriotic and so inspried to grow in my faith.
Monday we rode in another police escorted motorcade all the way to San Antonio so Darryn could have a military burial at Ft. Sam Houston. Bagpipes were playing. The rain held out, but it was still a cloudy, dreary day...consistent with our moods. They brought the casket to the site on a horse-drawn caisson. They presented flags to Julie and little Daylan as well as Darryn's parents and twin brother Jarrett. They did the rifle shots and a bugler played taps. Taps always gets me.
Darryn was a true American hero and I feel so honored to have known him. Please continue praying for his family and friends.