I’ve written extensively about losing Larry Hull, my late husband, and our daughter’s father, whose plane crashed in Laos in 1971 during the Vietnam War. Larry is one of thousands of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during that difficult and divisive war.
Before he left for war, I promised Larry he would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery if he didn’t come home. 35 years after his death, when his small forward air controller was shot down behind enemy lines, Larry’s remains were finally returned to our family.
My daughter, Laura, and I were contacted by the Department of Defense that Larry’s remains had been found, excavated and identified. Laura and I flew to Hawaii, to the Joint Pow Mia Accounting Command, where we saw, touched and held Larry’s remains.
It was a powerful moment. It was as if he was there with me grinning from ear-to-ear. In my mind he was tell me, “You done good, girl! You done good.”
Days later, we brought Larry’s remains to a funeral home. Larry’s remains were wrapped in a blanket and rolled out on a gurney. As I stepped up to the casket, I immediately placed the palms of my hands underneath his uniform laying on top of his velvet mattress.
I couldn’t take my eyes off Larry’s dress blues. His starched light blue shirt, his perfectly tied tie, and medals of honor, especially the Silver Star.
Once Laura and I decided we’d done all we could do, we nodded to our escort, Doyle, that is was time to go. We had a long flight from Hawaii to Washington D.C.
During much of the flight home, the three of us slept knowing the next two days would be wonderful, sad, thrilled that with the help of our country, I was keeping my promise to Larry.
I was going to bury him, honorably alongside veterans, friends and family, at Arlington National Cemetery.
After sleeping for several hours, I awoke from a dream, but it wasn’t a dream. It was the memory of Larry’s empty uniform protecting his bones, all that were left.
All I could think of was Larry’s uniform was empty and I began to sketch on a yellow legal pad I carried in my briefcase. It had to be just right, but it wasn’t hard to remember. On my computer I recorded Larry’s uniform blanketing his bones.
The casket would never be opened again but my soul directed my memory to ensure I never forget.
Never forget our heroes, loved ones, and those who help keep our country safe this Memorial Day.
© Tyra Manning 2019