Ask Me What I Was
I’ll reply with what I’ve done.
Those things others would not do, I did;
Those rivers others would not swim, I swam;
Those hills others would not climb, I conquered:
Those bridges others would not cross, I crossed;
I have celebrated. I have mourned.
I have smiled and I have frowned.
I have seen death and felt its warm breath. It did not faze me.
For I was different, I was a warrior.
You ask me what I was? It was my destiny,
Until my last breath, To be a United States Marine.
And my spirit shall live forever.
For I was, am, and shall forever be a
“United States Marine”
WWE is a company filled with Warriors; as such it’s no surprise one of the strongest relationships we’ve forged is with our United States Military. The respect felt throughout the ranks of WWE comes from top command and reverberates through the WWE ranks. All of WWE from the staff in Stamford, Conn., to the Superstars, are eager to give back to those who selflessly serve around the globe. It is not only in May we appreciate our armed forces, but all 12 months of the year.
Activities like WWE’s annual Tribute to the Troops, our support of Hire Heroes USA and USO-Metro, and visits to military hospitals allow WWE direct interaction with this nation’s heroes. Some of my favorite videos and photographs live in galleries at WWECommunity.com/Military. Photographers capture candid moments of heartfelt levity and respect between our battlefield warriors and WWE Superstars.
Receiving an invitation for the USO-Metro’s 36th Annual Awards Dinner to salute Military Spouses was a thrill. Learning WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry, U.S. Marine and NXT Superstar Lacey Evans and I would receive a tour of Marine Barracks Washington rounded out my excitement. It is a civilian privilege to meet our Marines at this historic post. I made it my mission to share the gratitude of the collective WWE Universe to say, “Thank you for your service.”
Being greeted by Captain Evita M. Mosqueda is like shaking hands with sunshine. This Marine has firm command and the brightest smile. We happily fell in behind her and Captain Logan Giger for our first meet and greet in Truman Crawford Hall. Mark, Lacey and I met Marines from different companies discovering their various specialties ranging from Administrators, Maintenance Marines, Infantry Marines and even Security Marines who protect the post 24/7. These men and women are a group of dynamic personalities with an evident abundance of leadership abilities. It was an honor to have time to ask questions, hear stories, take photos, and share our gratitude for the choice they’ve made to serve something greater than their own self-interest!
Strength, loyalty, leadership and history were recurring themes throughout our day at Marine Barracks Washington and was reinforced as we reached the home of the Commandant.
Being warmly welcomed by Mrs. D’Arcy Neller, the 37th Commandant’s wife, was to bring American history to present day life. Accompanied by docents, who along with Mrs. Neller shared stories (some ghost stories!!) of this historical home and those who lived in it from the time of our country’s birth. To walk the same floors as great men and their beloved spouses added weighty layers of meaning in this great legacy. To sit in seats our nation’s great thinkers had sat in and hear stories of their heated debates made me think how fortunate this country truly is. There are those who mark history with their vision and forethought. Thirty-seven of these great men and their wives have resided in the Commandant’s home. From this station they’ve kept eyes trained on protecting our homeland so that it may remain free.
Captain Mosqueda brought us back across the Parade Deck to our final Marine Barracks Washington interaction of the day: meeting the world-famous Body Bearers. I had no idea such a unit existed but was immediately struck and moved by the gravity and stoicism each member displayed. The training area for these Body Bearers is a dimly lit, underground parking garage, where this specialized unit looked more like action film stars and superheroes. In order to fulfill the Marine requirements for acceptance, there is strict adherence to a height, weight and physical fitness requirement. This band is an impressive group. Seated in folding chairs, Mark, Lacey and I watched the Body Bearers demonstrate how they carry the casket. We also witnessed how they fold of the Flag of Honor that is unlike any other branch of our military as they fold but do not tuck it.
So impressed was I with this unit that I sought permission to speak with these men whose motto is “The last to let you down.” Being granted access by Gunnery Sgt. John E. Jackson, I was privileged to speak at length with Sergeant Jamen Miller and Corporal Brandon Miller on a short break from training for their duties during Memorial Day services in Arlington. Sergeant Miller and Corporal Miller were both drawn to service from a young age – both having family members in the armed forces. With evident pride these two stated the Marine Corps was the only branch they ever wished to serve.
After the rigors of boot camp, first assignments and recruitment into this elite division, both these Marines signed on for this specialized training. Both students and active Body Bearers train hours every day in dedication to a singular purpose expressed by Sergeant Miller,
“The primary mission of the Body Bearers is to perform flawless funerals for Marines and Marine family members at Arlington National Cemetery and abroad.”
What it takes to make this “flawless” burial happen is what made me want to ask more questions. The seamless and stoic posture of these strong men needed a national spotlight. It is often the quiet heroes we require most in a time of need.
Every recruited member of the Body Bearers must demonstrate unquestionable moral character, leadership and organizational skills. The bearing of this Marine must be in sync with the collective objective to “never get complacent” and “always remember that although we may have three to four funerals at which we serve on any given day, that the family only gets one.” As such, with every funeral comes absolute purpose. Both Sergeant Miller and Corporal Miller reinforced their commitment to absolute excellence on a family’s “worst day.” They expressed how vital it was within their unit to have deep empathy for the family of their fallen brother or sister and to show unwavering stoicism. This commitment to strength on a family’s “worst day” is the famous calling card of these noble Body Bearers.
I suppose my deep admiration of this team of 11 active Body Bearers comes in part because I’ve had such a “worst day.” Receiving unwavering support and strength from my WWE family was a gift I cannot aptly name. Watching these Marines, who understand the gravity of their task, woke in me a deep sense of gratitude. Looking at the physical make up of this unit, too, recalls our spotlight on everyday heroes. These Marines possess all the physical benchmarks of superheroes alongside the strength of character, heart and service to seek and be selected.
The brute strength it takes to perform “flawless” funerals requires hours a day training, drilling in the gym. The Body Bearers refuse to allow complacency and afford the casket top priority “not just carrying weight from one point to another” and must drill in a manner that prepares for the “unknown weight of the box” at every funeral. Until the six Body Bearers have hands on the casket do they know how much weight they will carry. The unit is prepared by their dedicated training for up to 900 pounds for the final walk to burial. As the Body Bearers perform this flawless procession, they are in synchronized motion and breathe only through their noses. Unlike any other branch of the Military, the Body Bearers are a team of six, rather than nine, and carry the casket at shoulder height rather than hip level.
Perhaps, for me, the most moving part of this reverential ceremony is the “final raise.” Ahead of lowering the deceased into the ground, a show of respect is issued as the casket is raised to eye level for a 10-second count. In those 10 seconds, no Marine quivers. Every 225-pound bench press is tested, every 135-pound military press is called to attention. Watching videos of this procedure makes me cry, as clearly these devoted brethren make up the frame surrounding the deceased as they are recognized one last time as a member of the Marine Corps. Although the Body Bearers are known as “the last to let you down,” I know in the hearts of grateful families they are seen as the heroes who held their loved one aloft.
Leaving the oldest post of the Corps, Marine Barracks Washington, on May 10, to join USO-Metro for the 36th Annual Awards Dinner, I felt illuminated. I was raised to love my country and revere our military. I have never seen a man or woman in uniform and not said, “Thank you for your service.” Still,it’s easy to fall prey to cynicism over “the good ol’ days” looking in the rearview mirror. Being in the company of Marines, shaking their hands, hugging them, taking photos, being shown pictures of a Body Bearer’s wife and baby, clears away any lazy cynicism. These young, brave souls rekindle belief in what is good, right and true in the world!!
I believe in sacrifice. I believe in service. I believe in valor, honor, stoicism and strength. I believe the cure for cynicism is seeking inspiration. I believe Marine Barracks Washington will be a source of inspiration and an example of ULTIMATE WARRIORS, Semper Fi, and Oorah ... ALWAYS!
Heartfelt Gratitude to Marine Barracks Washington Marines for your hospitality and service.
Mrs. D’Arcy Neller
GySgt John E. Jackson
Captain Logan Giger
Captain Evita M. Mosqueda
Captain Colleen McFadden
World Famous Body Bearer
Sergeant Jamen Miller and Corporal Brandon Miller for taking time out of their busy schedule to speak with me at length.
Utmost awe and respect for the Body Bearers we were privileged to meet and watch drill while at Marine Barracks:
Sergeant Matero, Joseph
Hopewell JCT NYC
Sergeant Garner, Shaun
Corporal Nelson, Jeremy
New Glarus, Wisc.
Lance Corporal Givens, Luke
Corporal Vire, Cory
Lance Corporal Campillo, Boris
Corporal Harris, Kevin
Sergeant, Wagner Jr, Peter G.
Corporal Beckwith, Jesse
Learn more about Marine Barracks Washington at barracks.marines.mil, follow them on Facebook.com/MarineBarracks and Twitter @usmc. Visit metro.uso.org, Facebook.com/USOMetroDC and @USOMetroDC for more on USO-Metro. Learn more about The USO at uso.org, Facebook.com/theUSO and @the_USO.