A Warrior at Rest
Today I had the privilege to attend the funeral of Petty Officer James E. Suh at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. As I entered the gates of Forest Lawn, the LA City Fire Department had positioned a Ladder Truck on either side of the entrance in order to hang a giant American Flag from beneath the crossed ladders.
When James arrived at LAX from the East Coast two weeks ago, he was greeted by the LAX Police Honor Guard who carefully placed him in the waiting hearse. A SEAL Reservist member of the Santa Monica PD arranged this honor for James, and he told me that the entire airport terminal basically shut down for an hour while James was reunited with his family.
The Navy laid on an aircraft for SDV Team ONE members to attend, and at least 50 Team members made the trip. The Chapel services were very intimate, and it became immediately apparent that James had a large and very loving family. James was eulogized by a SEAL Chief, a Petty Officer from SDVT 1, and his sister Claudia. Claudia demonstrated great courage and warmth as she recounted her childhood with James and their father. She recalled the moment when as a big sister she realized her little brother was no longer subject to her physical domination. She remembered finding herself pinned to the floor with a large string of spit dangling from a mischievous grin on James’ face. The Chapel services concluded with a stirring photographic montage set to a beautiful hymn. The pictorial tribute showed how many lives James had touched, and in his powerful gaze were a quiet confidence and a charming wry smile.
The flag was carefully folded ensuring that every crease was smoothed and every fold crisp. It was received by Admiral Maguire who personally presented it to James’ father on behalf of a grateful nation.
Just as at the Memorial in Hawaii I was struck by a truly unique SEAL tradition that I hadn’t expected to see. Upon the dismissal of the assembly by the funeral director, the men of SDV Team ONE solemnly formed a single file and approached James’ immaculate wood coffin. One by one, each man removed his Trident from the breast of his uniform and pounded it into the gleaming wooden lid of his coffin. Dozens of golden Tridents were left shimmering in the sun to accompany James on his journey…forever.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.
Eternal Father, faithful friend,
Be quick to answer those we send
In brotherhood and urgent trust
On hidden missions dangerous;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For SEALs in air on land and sea.