Stewart had arranged a tour bus to accommodate the small funeral party from Tucson to Sierra Vista. Stewart’s best friend Bobby had volunteered his bus, and agreed to drive the group. They all met at a mall on the north west side of Tucson.
As friends and family loaded up on the bus, Stewart paced around like a funeral director. A white hearse carried the lifeless body of Wendell Willetto; as all the memories of collective minds, prepared to follow. After an uneventful ride, they arrived at Ft. Huachuca in about an hour. The funeral director spoke to the soldiers at the front gate of the Army post. After the director had waved the funeral party forward, Bobby pulled up and parked behind the hearse. Stewart stepped off the bus, and briefly spoke to the director. He nodded a few times then returned to the bus. “We are going to wait for a few stragglers, then we will proceed to the post cemetery.” Stewart was obviously tense, but he remained composed. With the delay, the funeral party began filing out quietly. Most spoke in small groups. It was a beautiful day. Sonny Ray and his family stepped down, and decided to take a short walk. As they walked, Raye saw something large circling in the sky. Her parents were deep in conversation, and had not heard their daughter speak,
as she peered keenly into the sky. Eventually the few late arrivals found their way. They parked outside the post gate and joined up on the bus.
As they arrived to the cemetery, the Air Force honor guard were posted up, waiting. On command they marched sharply to the rear of the hearse. They opened the back door of the hearse, and waited for further instructions. They had on their dress blues, and white dress gloves. They lifted up the casket, and prepared to carry it to the gravesite. It was then that two of the airman stumbled, and damn near dropped the casket on the ground. The small group of mourners gasped as one. They all turned to one another trying to figure out what almost happened. Sonny Ray began to smile. He knew exactly what happened. Wendell was only five foot two, and the casket reflected that. The men and women carrying the casket underestimated the weight of the person inside. Even though it was a tense moment, Sonny Ray smiled to himself. His dad would have laughed his ass off. Stewart read his eulogy, and the people cried. The small funeral party huddled together, awash in emotion. The honor guard was positioned in among the headstones awaiting further instructions. “Ready, aim, fire!” The airmen repeatedly fired their weapons, giving the obligatory twenty one gun salute. Sonny Ray counted every shot, making sure the old man got what he had worked for. “Well dad there you go, you got your twenty gun salute as promised,” Sonny Ray said softly. Growing up Wendell would periodically remind his children of his desire for a military funeral, complete with his twenty one gun salute. Over the years it sometimes sounded like an old man whistling in the dark. But today Sonny Ray understood. It was beautifully sad. People slowly began to trickle back to the tour bus. Sonny Ray lingered until he was finally the last one standing in front of his father’s casket. “Well pops there you go. You got your twenty gun salute just like you wanted. I’m sorry I didn’t come see you a few months back. I will always regret that,” his voice a little husky now. “I just wanted to thank you for being my dad, and looking after me all these years.” Sonny Ray lowered his head, and cried sorrowfully, as his tears fell upon his father’s casket. “Thanks dad, I love you, I gotta go. Rest easy old man. I’ll never forget you.”
He lightly tapped the casket and left his father where he lay. Then it was over. Stewart who had held himself together for the last couple of weeks could release now. Stewart sobbed on his brothers chest. Sonny Ray whispered something in his ear. Stewart looked up, and nodded. As they walked toward the shuttle bus something in the sky caught
Sonny Ray’s attention. A large black predator, a hawk or an eagle appeared to be hovering unusually low over the grave site. Sonny Ray had never seen a bird that large. He had certainly never seen a black eagle before today. Perhaps it was just the sun reflecting off it’s wings. ‘Probably wondering what all the commotion is down here,’ Sonny Ray thought to himself.
In large sweeping turns the black eagle made it’s inspection complete; as it broke off after four perfect circular rotations. The black eagle dream left the area, like the days of a man’s life; a shadow to be seen only for a little while by others.