Creativity Challenge – Tom Kiley Submission 1

Funeral Acknowledgment


This is a unique acknowledgment. My father passed away last December, around Christmas time. His name, as well as my son’s name, are the same. We are all Tom Kiley’s. And we are all veterans from different US military forces. Dad was in the Air Force, I was in the Navy and my son was in the Army. We had followed the legacy of family members being in the military dating back to the great white fleet on my mother’s side and to the Union Army on my Dad’s side.
There is an informal action that many veterans do when a brother vet passes. I knew that not only was this about my Dad but also about a brother veteran. So it was up to me to perform this action. All military organizations have a watch standing need, to monitor equipment, security needs, etc. When you watch is over (3-6 hrs), the oncoming watchstander will relieve the off-going watchstander.
So it is the same for saying goodbye to a deceased vet. A living member of the family or the ‘brotherhood’ would approach the deceased, offer a hand salute and say something along the lines of “You have been properly relieved; I HAVE THE WATCH.” This is to thank the deceased for their contribution to the military, their families and to the people they’ve touched throughout their lives. During their ‘watch’, they made friends, had a family with children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors who will miss them. The community they built may fall apart due to the loss of the departed. So someone needs to stand up and say the community they built would not fall. The next guy will have the watch. Since I am a vet, I knew in my heart that I would do this for my Dad. So, I had the consciousness, choice, and commitment all set. I also knew that the communication would be one way on earth, but he would hear it up there where he went to. Courage was the hardest part since I was saying goodbye to my Dad for the last time.
So out to the National Cemetery in Eastern Long Island, NY in a town called Calverton the procession went. It was a cold and very rainy day. At the end of the ceremony, attendees were offered time to say their last goodbyes. I got online. The courage overcame the sadness and when it was my turn, I snapped to attention, saluted my Dad, and said “Dad, you have served us well. You have been properly relieved. I HAVE THE WATCH.” I finished my salute, turned right in military fashion and left.
One thing I found out afterwards was that the communication was not one way. Yes, I said those things to my departed father, but I didn’t realize that the remaining audience watched me. When I rejoined the crowd, I was hugged and cried on by most of them especially my Mom, thanking me for such a wonderful thing to do, saluting him.