Michael “Sargent Major” Marshall passed away on Jan 3rd at the age of 71 and was laid to rest on Jan 10, 2013. During his time in the military he was awarded over 30 medals and commendations, including the Purple Heart and the Gallantry Cross (Vietnam). One of his personal crowning moments, I believe, was when he was awarded a meritorious service medal by President Obama last year. He carried that picture of the two of them everywhere, never bragging mind you, just damn proud.
Sargent Major exemplified the ideal of ‘gentle strength.’ Built like a pencil thin reed, he would bend when life threw heavy winds his way, yet he managed to support all of those around him. Once the winds passed, he would snap back to full strength, ready to take on the next. Kind and generous, sometimes to a fault, he was still a man you didn’t want to get on the bad side of. A true leader, in every sense of the word. To be honest, all he would have had to do was ask, and I would have followed him anywhere.
They say that funerals are for the living. I believe that. I mean, the departed are on to whatever the final adventure brings. Funerals are anchors for the grieving. A solid connection to the departed, a way to say goodbye and yet hold on.
Sargent Major was baptized as a Baptist, yet he converted to Buddhism many years ago. You would not have known this by his service, where his family praised God and Jesus for his salvation. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mind. The peace of mind he found came from his meditations on the teachings of the Buddha, as well as the words of Jesus. How do I know this? Because we talked of it at length. And yet his family needed to ignore that part of his life. For themselves, more than for Micheal, they needed to go to sleep later with the comforting thought that their beloved father, husband and uncle, was safe in the arms of their Lord.
Funerals are for the living.
I will miss Sargent Major a great deal. I will miss his stories. I will miss his wisdom. I will miss that wink. Most of all, I will just simply miss the man. I feel like he had so much more to teach me. I will not mourn though. I will instead continue to be grateful that our lives somehow crossed. I will hold the Buddha’s words close, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.”
‘Til we meet again Army, this is Navy, signing off.