I just arrived on the job after attending the wake of my friend and co-worker Barry, who died last Saturday. Barry was involved in many public service organizations, he was an emergency medical technician for his local volunteer ambulance corps, a volunteer firefighter, and a recently-promoted captain in the Westchester County Sheriff's Department. When I arrived at the funeral home, I was stuck with the staggering array of insignia on the vehicles in the parking lot. Outside the funeral home, there was an honor guard from the sheriff's department. I greeted them with a simple declarative sentence: "The man knew everyone." Without missing a beat, the head of the honor guard replied: "And everyone is going to be here."
Throughout the two hours I was in attendance (I had to leave a 7PM in order to get to work early so my co-worker Jim could pay his respects), every five minutes or so, there would be a changing of the guard for the two uniformed service members flanking the coffin... the Westchester County Police would salute and the Cortlandt EMS would step up, the Yorktown Fire Department would be relieved by the Croton-on-Hudson ambulance corps. State police in uniforms, teenaged EMT trainees in maroon polo shirts with their affiliated insignia... all were there to honor the life and the generosity of a man who exemplified public service in many different capacities.
The funeral will be tomorrow morning, and the procession, much like the processions he participated in while serving in a formal departmental capacity, will probably be a mile long... the man knew everybody.