Do you think it strange that I met a man on the day of his interment? I began to get a sense of the man at his mortuary visitation the night before. He was resplendent in his dress uniform. It is the way of Marines.
The next day, the Marine Corps honor guard, spit polished and creased, performed their duties with a solemnity that honored the passing of a warrior, one of their own. Seven rifles spoke as one. The crack of each volley quickly followed with the loading of another rifle round and then another volley. The American flag, removed from the casket, was folded with painstaking precision in preparation for the presentation to the widow.
Last Friday, Gunnery Sergeant Brian Eric Poe, USMC, Ret., was eulogized at his services held at the Airman’s Chapel, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Later that day he was laid to rest with full military honors at Miramar National Cemetery.
GySgt Poe, Eric to the world except for the military that insisted upon using his first given name of Brian, played the French Horn traveling the world with the Marine Corps Band for 22 years. He also competed both nationally and internationally on the Marine Corps shooting team.
I had the honor of participating as one of the motorcyclists who escorted Gunny on his last ride. I rode to offer support for Mala, Eric’s wife. She and I met when we worked together for a number of years on a route safety motorcycle team for a national breast cancer walk. Eric fully supported Mala’s participation in this important charity work.
I was aware that Eric was a former Marine but knew scant more of him. It stands to reason that Eric was a quality person. After all, Mala chose him as the love of her life. By all accounts, he returned her love in spades. At his wake, the descriptions of his love for Mala and his fellow man were numerous and palpable. The passion, joy and heart wrenching anguish, whether signed or audibly spoken, engulfed and washed over the listener compelling recognition of this man’s humanity.
During the chapel service, Alan Poe delivered a commanding tribute to his brother. Alan recounted that if you knew Eric in one of the many facets of his life, there was a good chance that he called you “brother,” a sign of his respect for you. Eric, it seems, had many extended brothers and sisters.
In addition to the Marine Corps Band, Eric played in the Marine Corps Brass Quintet. Trombonist and fellow quintet member GySgt Adam Pezdek was best friends with Eric. Adam recounted a trip that the brass quintet took wherein they played a CD by Canadian Brass that included a track entitled, “Quintet” by Michael Kamen. Adam said that they kept coming back to “Quintet” replaying the CD selection over and over despite the fact that none of these tough Marines wanted the others to see that the piece moved him to tears. Eric requested of Adam that “Quintet” be played at the forthcoming chapel service, and it was performed by Adam and the other four members of the Marine Corps Brass Quintet.
During the performance of Eric’s beloved “Quintet,” I was in a highly suggestible condition. That is my excuse for the tears that slid down my cheeks. Others were seen dabbing at their eyes. Later when I confessed to Adam, he said that he had tears too.
I have a soft spot for our combat warriors and especially one who played a brass musical instrument. In my youth, I played the French Horn and the trumpet so I was immediately drawn to Eric. Unfortunately, that was last Friday. I really wish that I’d met him earlier and had the opportunity to earn his respect and thereby be called brother by him.
Gunnery Sergeant Brian Eric Poe was more than an outstanding representative of the Marine Corps. He was more than a man’s man. He was more than a man of excellence. He was a faithful, loving husband, talented musician and a brother to everyone.
I believe that a statement in the funeral program must be true, “Brian Eric Poe was an example of the best of America.”
Rest in peace, Brother! You have loved and been loved in return.
(There is a link in the body of this blog to a performance of “Quintet” by Canadian Brass or use this address http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HjBT8ElQ7Pw
After listening to “Quintet” open a second browser and play again the music that Eric so loved as a background to rereading this blog. Perhaps you too will feel a connection with Eric.)