Each year I write this column, I think to myself – should I write it yet again? The answer is always yes, as those veterans that gave the ultimate sacrifice should be remembered each and every year.
It’s been 7 years now since I first wrote about PFC Jonathon Hall, a young soldier who was killed in action in Afghanistan. I just happened to take my grandson to the National Cemetery here in Chattanooga. On that day, at that time, we happened upon the funeral service for PFC Hall. I didn’t know Jonathon Hall or his family, but I thought it would benefit my grandson to witness a military funeral.
I wrote about the experience when I returned home that evening and it remains as one of most special columns of the hundreds I have written. I get letters and emails quite often on columns I write, sometimes not complimentary of my writings, but this one got all nice responses, mostly from people that knew PFC Hall, but even some from those that didn’t know him, but liked the column.
If there is one thing I would like to say to PFC Hall’s family and friends, it is that he is not forgotten. People remember PFC Jonathon Hall, even those that never knew him.
Here is my article from Tuesday, April 20, 2010 –
“Yesterday, I took my 12-year-old grandson to the military funeral of PFC Jonathon Hall. At 23, PFC Hall wasn’t much older than my grandson. This was my grandson’s first funeral, and I knew he would have questions.
His first question was centered on the reasons we were there. I had to explain that this young man had died in war, supporting the United States of America. I went on to explain that PFC Hall had been awarded the Bronze Star for his actions, as well as the Purple Heart.
The Fire Department had the crossed ladder trucks with the U.S. Flag in the center of the entrance to the National Cemetery. The County Police had a mounted patrol ready to escort the procession upon its arrival at the cemetery. The procession arrived with a police escort of dozens of cars and motorcycles before falling in behind the horses. Local bikers organizations pooled together to add to the escort and flag presentations. Say what you want about bikers, but they are always ready to support our veterans, fallen comrades, or sick children.
We went to the memorial service site and awaited the procession as it wound through the cemetery, passing the thousands of gravesites of other veterans. What a beautiful and serene place this cemetery is. I did tell my grandson to place his hand over his heart when the hearse came by, as the United States Flag is present, draped over the casket inside the vehicle. The bikers formed two lines from the road to the memorial site, each with our flag.
A lone bagpipe player played as the procession arrived, as well as later in the ceremony. The sounds of the bagpipe filled the quiet air of the cemetery and made me think of other veterans I had lost throughout my life, such as my Dad, my Uncle Bob, my Grandfather, all to natural causes, and a man I never had chance to meet - Capt. Richard Halpin. Captain Halpin was shot down on his last assigned day in Vietnam. I roomed with his brother at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. We were looking forward to Captain Halpin visiting us the following week. It’s funny how the bagpipes made me think about things.
The ceremony also included the playing of Taps, by a lone bugler. I have heard that song many times, and it remains a beautiful tribute to the fallen soldier. Seven soldiers also gave a three-shot volley salute to PFC Hall. I was proud of my grandson, as he saluted on his own when the Honor Guard was ordered to “Present Arms”. He is but 6 years away from the possibility of serving our country. Now I know how my Mom felt when I joined the U.S. Air Force during Vietnam. I know she was proud. And, scared.
Goodbye, PFC Jonathon Hall. The music played at your funeral was beautiful, but sad. You are now in good company, PFC Hall.”
If you are out and about on Monday, think about taking a few minutes to stop by the National Cemetery and pay your respects to those that are buried there. It is truly a beautiful place. If you get chance, stop by PFC Hall’s grave. His plot is Section DD-1, Site 126.
Bob Payne grew up in Chattanooga and graduated from Baylor School. He is the Entertainment Editor for the Chattanoogan.com and assistant talent buyer for Friends Of The Festival.
Email Bob Payne at email@example.com or catch him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/davrik2000.