During my most recent deployment to the Middle East, I had the opportunity to attend several ramp ceremonies that honored five fallen service members who gave their last full measure of devotion during our yearlong deployment to Kuwait and Iraq.
A ramp ceremony takes places as military aircraft transports fallen heroes from theater to the U.S.
At each stop along the way, which might include a military base in Germany and the Military Mortuary Facility at Dover, Del., a detail of military members stands along each side of the ramp leading into the aircraft, and all members of the detail render a solemn hand salute in unison as each fallen hero’s flag-draped silver box is carried on or off of the aircraft.
When multiple Soldiers, Marines, Sailors or Airmen are being transported on the same aircraft, the ceremony can last an hour and takes a very heavy emotional toll on the ramp ceremony participants, as they render a hand salute to each and every fallen hero.
As a chaplain, I had the opportunity to board the aircraft before it took off and to say a silent prayer at each flag-draped silver box, containing the remains of a fallen Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. I would pray for the family members who were about to receive a knock on the door that would change their lives forever. I prayed for the children who would never get to see their father or mother again. I prayed for the fathers and mothers, the brothers and sisters, and the husbands and wives whose own lives would forever be touched by something that took place on a distant battlefield. I also prayed for the chaplain and the casualty notification officer who would perform the sacred duty of delivering the news to the next of kin.
I often thought, “what would their loved ones give for just 15 more minutes of time?” I think about this when couples come to me for premarital or marital counseling.
I have them read “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman, who describes one of the love languages as “Quality Time,” which means you feel loved when your partner gives you 15 minutes of his or her undivided attention each day.
This quality time might involve a conversation, a walk or simply sharing a moment together while sipping coffee. The activity isn’t important; the 15 minutes of your life that you offer to your partner is. Chapman says when you give your partner 15 minutes of your time, you are truly giving them 15 minutes of life.
The reality is that those family members who mourn the loss of their fallen Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine aren’t going to get 15 more minutes — at least not in this life.
Take full use of your 15 minutes every single day. Don’t leave anything unsaid. Tell your husband or wife what he or she means to you; tell your children that you love them. Call your parents and thank them for giving you the gift of life.