Monday, May 2, 2011

Terry Varnadore

I've never been to a military funeral before. The bugle, gun salute, presentation of the flag was a thing for movies. Today, it became reality. Terry Lee Varnadore was laid to rest this afternoon at Mills River United Methodist Church. The helicopter he was piloting crashed in Afghanistan last week cutting short the life a young man, husband and father.

Terry Lee was a freshman wrestler my senior year at West Henderson. I remember him taking lots of beatings. We weren't hazing him- we were a team that ended up winning a state title that year and had several state placers and champs on the roster. He experienced lots of growing pains in our wrestling area. But he always came back for more. And he got better. Before his career was over, he went on to advance to the state tournament twice.

I commented to Coach Smith about the great things he said about Terry Lee in the newspapers. His reply to me was that he was "one of those it was easy to find plenty of good things."

We always show honor to those who serve and have fallen because of their sacrifice. But often time, it's just that: we're honoring their sacrifice. With Terry Lee, we honored his life. You'd be really hard pressed to find someone with a negative comment about him. He met his future wife in Kindergarten. He was respected in school and by all accounts he was highly regarded in the Army. Terry Lee was a true hero.

I sat with Coach Smith, some of his current wrestlers and Mike Connelly, one of the captains on that wrestling team back in 1996. When, during the eulogy, Brent Hall, Terry's best friend and another wrestler, looked over and said that the men they wanted to most please in their lives were their fathers and Coach Smith, I couldn't handle it. I could relate to that sentiment because that man made a difference to me. The same way he made a difference to Terry Lee.

Terry's burial was a thing to behold. Again, I'd never seen it before. American flags everywhere. The steady breeze made sure we saw the Stars and Stripes in all her glory. Amazing Grace on the bagpipe, Taps on the bugle. Firefighters and law enforcement at attention above the crowd. And there was a flyover. Six helicopters from various nearby agencies flew low and slow over the funeral. I was reminded of his career in the military as a chopper pilot but I was also reminded that he is being carried to a great place.

And that our journey is not complete.

God rest your soul.

All Photos: my friend Patrick Sullivan- Times News

1 comment:

Emily Bradford Routon said...

beautiful photographs...