I went to an Army promotion ceremony yesterday.
A young man made specialist.
His wife was there, and his parents.
And a United States senator.
And the folks from the newspaper and the TV.
Everybody was there.
Except the strapping soldier whose portrait was on the easel. A stunningly handsome paratrooper, with a jaunty, confident smile, he died last summer.
He died in Afghanistan and left a bride of three months. A couple of weeks ago she and the others who had gathered at City Hall for the wedding took the piece of cake out of the freezer and toasted one another with the fluted wedding glasses as they all took a bite.
All but Theodore Matthew Glende.
He was a private first class when he died.
Now he is a specialist.
Now he is one more son of our Republic who has laid down his life in service to his country and his comrades.
It was a beautiful day on the Veterans Walkway, behind where they were setting up for the Lilac Festival, and the family stood on either side of the microphone-cluttered lectern. The senator walked up comfortably and began softly delivering his remarks.
Chuck Schumer is no shrinking violet. He is fond of the cameras, he offers opinions on any topic under the sun, he has a hand in everything big in Washington. He is a liberal Democrat and yesterday he was visiting a town that isn’t always fond of liberal Democrats.
But this wasn’t that Chuck Schumer.
At least it wasn’t that facet of that Chuck Schumer.
This was a tender man who spoke softly and comfortingly, who teared up at times, who set people at ease and who, in a steady, measured text, spoke for a nation. He was a father and a grandfather, come to thank and come to lead. To speak for the loss and to speak for the love.
The gun-banning senator come to speak to the memory of the gun-collecting specialist. Conservatives on every side and a liberal in the middle.
And none of that meant a thing.
It was one family, a red, white and blue family, and everyone knew it.
Later, in a private conversation, Senator Schumer would talk about his appreciation of those who serve, the incomprehensible sacrifice of those who die, and the unwavering burden borne by the loved ones they leave behind. Saying that the country must always remember, honor and support those heroes, he said, “And that is something upon which we will always agree.”
He was right.
That is something upon which we will always agree. They are our
sons and brothers, daughters and sisters, spouses and children. There are no politics, there are no divisions, just one flag and one heart.
And the senator exemplified that.
The promotion is mostly for sentimental reasons, for the pride of achievement that comes from earning another rung on the ladder. For the tip of the hat that comes from upward progress in a world where you wear your status on your shirt and your peers rejoice at your success.
The Army said when he was killed that he would be promoted. It was put on his headstone, spoken at his memorial, made permanent on the Internet. But the paperwork never came through. There was a hang up and then a dead end and for all the difference some ink on paper made, it looked like Theodore Matthew Glende would march into heaven a private first class.
But his wife pushed. A tall, lovely girl who works nights as a nurse and still posts pictures from their wedding, she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
She contacted the senator again and she pushed for an answer and he got one for her.
He got a promotion for her husband.
Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende.
That’s what it will say on the outside of the big post office down on Jefferson Road, the one where his wife goes to buy stamps.
Chuck Schumer is going to get it named for him, as a worthy reminder.
Of the man who got promoted yesterday.
A couple of blocks from where, a year ago, in the hours after the wedding, he and his wife posed by the big cannon for a picture.