During my visit to Walter Reed, I ran into Chaplain Wayne Haddad, whose kind demeanor and conversation immediately put me at ease. I inquired if there might be some use for me, and within a week, I was signed up to play at the Navy Chaplains’ celebration.
It was similar to the USMC Ball I attended last year, and while I was there in a professional capacity, they insisted I eat at the Walter Reed table and made sure I was well taken care of. After a lifetime of carrying a cello (and maybe even taking some bizarre pleasure in declining help with my gear), it was admittedly nice to have a young sailor absolutely insist on carrying my stand and seeing me to my car in one piece.
Most of it was background music, courtesy of Lee Melodic Studies and the odd Schroeder étude. Then came the cake ceremony, where the youngest and eldest chaplain cut and serve each other a slice. I smiled a little damply and played their request- Auld Lang Syne- until that part was over.
I had originally been scheduled to play Eternal Father (the Navy Hymn) during the video tribute to the chaplains who had died in the line of duty. I wrote out an arrangement and steeled myself to try and make it through without revealing too much of my tearful gratitude to these men and women whose jobs are by their nature the most beautiful and impossible work in the world.
As it turns out, the house band played the hymn instead, and as I made my way home from Joint Base Meyer-Henderson Hall, the road took me right around the top of Arlington National Cemetery, past the silent rows of still white stones, seemingly endless in number and significance. I pulled over on the gravelly shoulder, got out of my car and thanked them aloud. When I got home, I may have hugged P a little longer than usual.