I had yet another funeral to attend yesterday. This is getting to be a habit, sadly. This was in a town I used to live in a few years ago before I started transitioning. Being a good Catholic male at the time, I was a member of the Knights of Columbus. After a short time I became an officer in both the Council and the Assembly (two divisions of the KoC). In fact, I am a Past Grand Knight and Past Faithful Navigator. I still pay dues annually. They just think I moved out of town and didn’t transfer my membership to the local Council. Heehee, maybe I should join the Ladies Auxiliary instead.
So anyway, into the Council came this gentleman, a very nice man, who happened to have the same birthday as I. He was ten years older than me but still, the same day. How cool. So we became friends. We matched each other position by position… he did two years Grand Knight, I did two years. He did two years Faithful Navigator… well, you get the idea.
He was a Vietnam Vet, a helicopter pilot. G_____ used to tell hilarious stories of his flying experience in combat (he flew Chinooks which is relatively unarmed… not totally, but it’s not the exciting lead slinging helicopters of movie fame).
One time at a fundraiser at a Walmart handing out free Tootsie Rolls hoping for donations, he told this story to a bunch of us: “I had to pick up a squad to get them out of the firestorm. They had the high ground for defensive purposes but gave me no flat surface to land. So I pressed the landing gear against the hill and held it there, sideways, while the men made their way to me. Over the top came a group of the enemy firing right at me. I held steady and starting firing back with my .45. I wasn’t about to leave those boys. We loaded, I pulled up and away while giving the little bastards the finger. Unfortunately, they had shot out my windshield. I had to fly all the way back to FOB with the wind in my face. But I got ’em back.” Then he turned to me: “M____, tell us a war story about being in the band.” He said it with a twinkle in his eye, the bastard! I forgot what silly story I told. Doesn’t matter. His story showed me the kind of man he was, and continued to be throughout his life. He would work a fundraiser for every last dime, and with the Knights every last dime was presented to the various Intellectual Disability institutions around, and the Special Olympics.
An amusing aside. There is a ceremony for fallen Knights. Lots of pomp and ceremony, presentations, honor guard, all going on before the funeral. This is done by the very Assembly I led for two years in boy mode. I saw so many folks that I knew for years and was a little concerned. I got some looks but nothing more. No flash of recognition from anyone. I just wanted to say my farewells to an old friend. I was in and out in a few hours.
Life goes on.