Monday I tuned into the cable news to watch the John Lewis festivities. I always thought the Bard had it wrong when he said: “The evil that men do lives after them,” for it seems to me that when people die, we usually give them a pass and tend to focus on all the good stuff they have done. For example, it is unusual for an obituary or eulogy to say much about the deceased’s less endearing qualities. In Lewis’s case there seems little doubt that he was a genuine American hero and that his stature as such is warranted. Even his adversaries don’t question the worthiness of those accolades, although I am expecting a tweet from on high before the week is over!
I spent the day flipping between CNN and MSNBC hoping to see something other than a hearse either parked or proceeding at 2 miles per hour through the streets of DC while various anchor people tried to fill in the time. I was so engrossed in the anticipation that something worth watching would happen that I forgot to check in with Fox News. It would be interesting to know if they felt any of it newsworthy.
When I checked late that afternoon the temperature in Washington DC was 95 degrees, and as is usually the case in DC, the humidity level was high. There had been a heat advisory issued earlier in the day. I initially became concerned about that while I watched the honor guard at the airport standing at attention in their full-dress uniforms waiting to carry the casket from the plane to the hearse, but that phase was uneventful (although I was surprised they had survived standing motionless on the concrete at the mercy of an unrelenting sun).
Having spent some time in the military, I was aware of how standing rigidly motionless for long periods of time can result in a temporary loss of consciousness due to orthostatic hypotension which is usually caused by prolonged immobility or a decreased blood volume such as dehydration. In this case, it seemed likely that both scenarios were in play, so that when the hearse finally arrived at the Capitol, the same or similar honor guard was standing at attention at the bottom of the steps of the Capitol building. It was composed of 2 marines, 2 army, 2 navy, and 2 air force enlisted men along with a squad leader.
With the arrival of the hearse at the capital, I was hopeful that those guys would not be forced to stand there as long as they had at the airport, but as the commentators dragged on my hopes were dashed. I commented to Barb that although those guys are trained to remain motionless in these kinds of ceremonial missions, there are limits to human tolerance, and I did not imagine they would be able to tolerate much more time standing at attention in that intolerable heat.
Those words had barely escaped when one of the sailors collapsed. This was not one of those faints in which one gradually sinks to their knees and slides to the ground, but the sailor fell flat on his back much like a tree being felled. The other members of the squad did not so much as twitch, and a capital policeman walked over to attend to the fallen one. I was concerned as to the possibility of a head injury since he had fallen so hard with the point of impact appearing to be the back of his head. To my surprise he was eventually able to walk away with some assistance, and finally the remaining 7 guys were able to carry the casket up the steps into the rotunda.
When the sailor passed out, I was watching MSNBC. They briefly followed the incident but with no follow-up. When I toggled to CNN, they made no mention of it, and had panned away from the honor guard. Through it all they continued their commentary as if nothing had happened. I was appalled at the disregard exhibited by the media for an accident which could have or maybe did result in a fractured skull. We will never know the extent if any of his injuries since the media giants did not deem it important enough to follow-up.
An even more important question is: why in the world were those poor guys left to suffer in what could in other situations be described as torture with risk of serious injury or illness. I recall one of the broadcasters saying that the ceremony was running 20 minutes behind schedule, but I am certain those guys were out there longer than 20 minutes. Even so, why would anyone order them out there knowing there was a delay. Was anyone in charge? Were they aware of the risk to the honor guard, If not, why not, and if they did know, did they care?
Did anyone give a damn?
Editor’s Note: Here is link to how the military press covered the sailor’s crash with concrete: Link to Article