It’s kind of a cool overcast day here in Wisconsin. The sun won’t shine but at least its not raining. The weather really does fit the mood here in small town Wisconsin. Today they brought home Benjamin Neal’s body. Benjamin Neal of Orfordville Wisconsin died April 25 in Afghanistan while on his second tour of duty. He was survived be his mother and father, five siblings and a wife.
Ben grew up on his families dairy about 10 miles from our house. He graduated from Parkview High School in 2009, I remember him from wrestling matches when our two small towns would meet. Corporal Neal was only 21-years-old. He joined the Army shortly after graduating from High School.
Someone, I think Ben’s uncle started a Lighting the Way to Bring Ben Home is a campaign to support the family. Last I heard over 26,000 porch lights were turned on, night and day, to light the way. Ours is still on, I’m not quite ready to turn it off yet.
A man form Illinois brought 1000 American flags. They lined both side of the highway all the way from one end of town to the other. Fire departments form all around brought in equipment. They used aerial ladder trucks to form two arches over the roadway each with a huge American flag draped between the ladders. Other trucks were used to block off side streets. I’m not sure how many different police departments were they, at least six very likely more. All the front yards were mowed, everything was neat and in order and there were signs all over town thanking Ben for his service.
People lined up this morning along the roadway to welcome Ben home. It would be hard to put a number to it, I heard they were spread out the whole way from the Rock County Air Port to Orfordville; about 10 miles give or take.
The Orfordville American Legion acted as Color Guard for Ben at the airport then the Patriot Guard escorted Ben and his family to Orfordville. The Sheriff"s Department shut down traffic and then lead the procession. They were followed be the Village police and other municipal vehicles. Next there were maybe 100 of the Patriot Guards on their motorcycles. Then came the Hearst, pallbearers and the family. Were I stood the crowd was silent when the family passed.
This is the sort of thing that happens “somewhere else” not right next door. I’m not sure how I feel about the whole thing, grateful, humbled, sad, perhaps all of those along with a few others mixed in.
My son’s squadron VFA-34 started painting the names of service members that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan a little while ago. It was something they decided they could do to honor those service member and their sacrifice. My son called today to tell me that SPC Neal’s would be painted on one of the jets and a flag would be carried on a mission and sent home to the Neal family.
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