Ed Rasimus was interred at Arlington National Cemetery today. I went to pay my respects to the man that I'd corresponded with and swapped blog comments with for so long.
Giants still do walk the earth, and there were a number of them at the ceremony. They were old, but even with gray hair or no hair, it was impossible for the military pilots in the room past and present not to stand out. And they came from all across the country, and even a few from Europe to say good-bye to a good man who was one of their own.
It was a nice ceremony. The weatherman had been predicting rain, but it was perfect outside. There was an Air Force band, and an Honor Guard. The horse-drawn caisson led the procession, and at the appropriate time, the rifles fired, a salute due for a man who'd given much to this country: 250 combat missions in Vietnam and a lifetime of peacetime flying the world over. A Silver Star. Five Distinguished Flying Crosses. Ed had walked the walk, to be sure, and his legend lives on in his two books: When Thunder Rolled and Palace Cobra.
And yes, many nickels were thrown on the grass.
Afterwards, there was a small reception at the Officers' Club at Fort Meyer. I heard a lot of good stories about Ed, and I'll be grinning at some of them for quite some time. Those old pilots can be quite the characters when they loosen up and get a drink or two in them, and it was far from somber or sad in that room. A particular hunting story that was told about Ed will have me checking my pockets for loose change for the rest of my days, and always with a smile on my face.
I never got to meet Ed in person. I had two chances over the last couple of years, but I blew both of them, naively thinking that there'd be another opportunity down the road. I didn't really know him all that well outside of our internet back-and-forth, but they say that you can judge a man by the caliber of his family and friends, and based on the people that I met and heard from today, Ed was definitely one of the Great and the Good.
Much-discussed this day was this 1967 Air Force documentary in which Ed had one of the starring roles, having just completed his hundredth mission. You can see him at 2:56 popping a champagne cork from his cockpit, and for quite some time starting at 3:54 discussing his plans for his next posting as an instructor pilot. Watch the whole film if you've got half an hour. You can't fail to appreciate the men like Ed who did what they did.
"If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much space." Ed Rasimus.