The events and views portrayed in the piece in no way reflect the views and attitude of the author. It was extremely disturbing to do the research for this story. Most of the time I don’t get political but I felt I needed to say something. For those that might not have heard of the antagonists of this piece, there is an explanation at the end.
Last Man Standing
“Mommy, what are those people doing?” Twelve-year-old Susan Kendall asked, tugging at the sleeve of her mother’s black jacket and pointing to the small group of marchers parading at the gates of the cemetery. They carried signs on which were printed slogan like “God Bless Dead Soldiers” and “America Is Doomed.” Susan couldn’t understand why they would say things like that. Didn’t they know that her daddy was going to be buried today?
Robin Kendall quickly grabbed her young daughter, spinning her away from the spectacle outside the cemetery gates. She couldn’t let Susan see them. It was hard enough to deal with Doug’s death without that fanatical group of protestors out there.
Out of the corner of her eye she spotted her late husband’s CO, Captain Crane, approaching with thunder and lightning in the depths of those golden amber pools. “Mrs. Kendall, I’m sorry. I only just heard they were coming,” he apologized, as if taking personal responsibility for their presence.
“It’s alright. I just don’t want Susan to see them. How can they be allowed to do this, haven’t we been through enough?” Robin’s voice cracked with emotion and she felt hot tears running down her cheeks. She tried to be strong for Susan but Doug’s death had been so sudden, it was hard to get over the shock.
Crane frowned. “The Supreme court said they have the right to protest at military funeral. To deny them that is a denial of the First Amendment,” he said, referring to the Constitutional Bill of Rights, written over two hundred years ago when the country was a fledgling nation, that guaranteed freedom of speech.
Robin wiped at her eyes as Crane handed her his handkerchief. “What about my family’s right to have a respectful funeral for my husband? He died protecting their rights!” she exclaimed, only just realizing that she was upsetting her daughter.
Crane’s expression darkened. “Go on over, the service will be starting soon. I’ll see what I can do.” Gently but firmly, he urged the grieving widow away from the gates and deeper into the cemetery, toward the tent set up over a casket draped with the American flag.
Lee clenched his fists as he headed for the gates and he noticed something. Crewmen, in dress uniforms, were beginning to line up between the protestors. He saw Kowalski, and Patterson, Riley and even Sharkey. They made no move against the marchers, but simply acted as a barrier between their message of hatred and the grieving family.
Lee wanted to say something but the crewmen kept arriving. In groups and pairs, even singly they lined up, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, until there was a solid wall of over a hundred men. Lee felt his throat close up and he had to take a deep shuddering breath. He had no idea his men were capable of this level of loyalty.
Without warning, Kowalski barked out a single command. “Together!” His voice carried over the chanting and as one, the group of Seaview’s crewmen took a step forward. Then another. And another. The sound of their hard-soled shoes hitting the pavement in cadence was like thunder, drawing an immediate silence from the knot of marchers.
The protestors reacted instinctively, backing up in response to the approaching servicemen. Seaview’s crew made no other sound and made no motion of violence. They simply keep marching, the rhythm of their steps sounding in unison as the moved forward as one.
The chanting had stopped, the hate filled slogans died away, and the signs began to droop. It was twenty against a hundred. Their message died away on the wind.
Finally Lee managed to snap himself out of his daze and he darted forward, reaching for a crewmen’s shoulder. “Kowalski,” he began as Ski turned his head to face him.
“We’ll keep them back, Skipper. They want to protest they’ll have to do it from a distance. Doug was my friend. Last man standing, I swear they won’t get any closer.”
Lee had to clear his throat to make his voice work. “Carry on, Ski,” he managed as the group took another step forward. Lee backed up, seeing the confusion in the eyes of the demonstrators. They’d been met by hordes of protestors, arguing their point of view against their own message, but never had they been met by anything like this.
His heart and soul swelling with pride, Lee clapped Ski on the back and turned, heading back toward the funeral service. Ski would keep his word. They would remain as long as it took for the funeral to end, doing their best to protect the grieving family, to the last man standing.
The protestors in this story are modeled after a group from Kansas, Westboro Baptist Church, which has made headlines as of late, known for their anti-guy, anti-Jewish and other hate-filled messages. Amongst their many claims is that the death of American soldiers is God’s punishment for the sin of same-sex relationships that they see as a blasphemy. In March 2011, the United States Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment right of this group, saying that they are protected under American law to protest outside of military funerals, drawing much fire and criticism. It’s been my understanding that the United Kingdom has banned them from entering Britain. (Wikipedia) I couldn’t help but wonder how our guys might have handled this situation.
The title of this story was once again inspired by line from a song, this one by Bon Jovi, called “Last Man Standing,” written by Bon Jovi and Billy Falcon. 2005
ain't seen nothing like him
He's the last one of the breed
You better hold on to your honey
Honeys, don't forget to breathe
Enter at your own risk, mister
It might change the way you think