Randolph community expresses support for hero

  • Published
  • By Bob Tullgren
  • Air Education and Training Command
(Editor's note: Bob Tullgren is a Live Oak city councilman and an employee of Air Education and Training Command.)

The afternoon of April 13, I had the honor to participate in the transfer of a fallen Sailor from Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph to a local funeral home. I wish to express my views from the motorcade: Precision is the first single word that comes to mind.

Very late on April 12, Randolph received a call that they'll be receiving the remains of Navy Seaman Trevor J. Stanley, 22. The base and community react. Emails and phone calls are made, rehearsed preparations are put into motion and the word gets out "A soldier has fallen and paid the ultimate price."

April 13

12:30 p.m.
- The family and empty hearse arrived at the staging area.

12:31 p.m. - The family pulled in behind a motorcycle "brigade of veterans" notified just hours prior.

12:32 p.m. - The motorcade was escorted from the Live Oak Civic Center to Loop 1604 South to FM78. It turned down Harmon Drive. All along the way, a seamless transfer of communication occurred among three different police agencies ensuring the motorcade moved effortlessly to Randolph base operations.

12:40 p.m. - The family was met by senior Air Force and Navy personnel. A red carpet is on the flightline awaiting the arrival of the courier plane, Seaman Stanley and his escort. Fire trucks and other Randolph flightline vehicles arrive with lights on as base personnel gather.

1:00 p.m. - A specially equipped courier plane arrived. It parked at the end of the carpet. At this time, everyone stood tall and in pure silence.

1:07 p.m. - The pilot opened the side of the aircraft. With the utmost military precision, ramps and an electronic lift were placed.

1:10 p.m. - Seaman Stanley's escort briefly left the side of the casket he has travelled with for thousands of miles to briefly join the family.

1:17 p.m. - Seaman Stanley and his casket, draped with a crisp American flag, were taken out of the aircraft and met by a team of fellow Navy Seamen in full dress uniform. The sounds of the grieving family drowned out any other sound in the area as he was placed in the hearse. As I watched, I was filled with an indescribable and conflicting range of emotions that poured out at one time - sorrow for the family, their pain from the loss, lost as I know there are close family members and co-workers trying to understand the loss, joy from my upbringing knowing this Seaman is in heaven, pride in the way Seaman Stanley and his family were being treated and numbness from watching the experience unfolding before me.

1:25 p.m. - The motorcade was reassembled and departed toward the funeral home.

1:30 p.m. - Having been placed behind the family, what I witnessed and the emotions to follow I was not prepared for.

At every turn, the motorcade was met with military members at full attention presenting perfect salutes. Civilians stood proud in silence rendering appropriate respect, youth in the base skate park froze with hands over their hearts, people observing from balconies and office windows watched in silence as the motorcade made its final turn to Harmon Drive.

On Harmon Drive, hundreds of Randolph Airmen and employees lined the curb. As the hearse, family and escorts slowly drove by, we were met with a "wave" of salutes starting six paces before the Seaman's body passed by and dropping after rendering respect to the family. Through tears of my own, I saw trembling lips and faces distraught with anguish as all participated in this moment of honor. At the far end of Harmon Drive, there were two fire trucks with ladders fully extended to display the largest American flag I've seen fly freely.

As we drove down Pat Booker Road, the scene was like something I've only seen in movies; Time had stopped. Oncoming traffic and people stopped and were frozen in place at the exact spot they realized what was occurring. Cars stopped in the middle of the street or in a turn. Occupants stood outside their vehicles, engines off and giving respect. I witnessed fast food restaurants and businesses where both the employees and customers stood outside with hands placed over their hearts. It looked as if all time had stopped to honor our fallen Seaman.

I know I will never be able to fully express in words the feeling the experience gives a family or escort. The experience may not stop the pain one feels in the core of his heart and body from the loss, but it can numb the pain for a moment. As time passes and more time is available to reflect and understand what transpired, the experience of seeing all of you and others rendering respect offers pride and increased pain-free moments to reflect upon in the future.

To all who attended or made it possible for others to render a final salute to our fellow service member: Thank you.