No Greater Gift

The flag never left Jim Cathey.

From the moment his body departed Iraq, the sturdy, heavyweight cotton flag remained nearby, following him from the desert to Dover Air Force Base, Del., where a mortuary affairs team received his body.

According to the Department of Defense, Cathey was killed in Al Karmah, Iraq, on Aug. 21. Members of his unit later told family members that Cathey was leading the search of an abandoned building when a booby-trapped door exploded. The explosion was so fierce it blew off an arm and leg of the Marine directly behind Cathey. That man, now in recovery, credits his lieutenant with saving his life.

And now Lieutenant James Cathey, USMC has another life to his credit. Enter James Cathey, Junior who reported for duty a few weeks early to comfort to a young war widow in a world suddenly grown cold and lonely:

“I’ve been kind of afraid that once I had him I would get even more upset about Jim having passed away, but having him has actually helped me,” Katherine Cathey, a widow and mother said.

Second Lt. James Cathey, Katherine’s husband, died one month after he arrived in Iraq. He was killed instantly when he entered a booby trapped building ahead of the Marines under his command. Two days later, his wife Katherine learned that their baby would be a son.

Before Jim was buried, Katherine Cathey spent the last night with her husband. When she closed his coffin, she placed an ultrasound picture of their baby over his heart.

The baby was not due until Jan. 1. Early in the week before Christmas his mother and grandmother felt something was not right so they went into the hospital.

“They got a heartbeat when they put the monitor on but they weren’t sensing that he was moving at all,” Katherine said. “I was very scared.”

Doctors rushed Katherine into the operating room.

“They all for the most part knew I had lost my husband and I couldn’t go through losing the baby too,” Katherine said.

After an emergency caesarean section, James Cathey Jr. (Jimmy, for short) arrived strong and healthy. He was an answer to so many prayers.

“I just looked at his face and that’s when I started crying because I thought he’s so beautiful,” Katherine said. “I really feel like Jim has watched over me and the baby a lot.”

Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine,
His honour and the greatness of his name
Shall be, and make new nations.

William Shakespeare, King Henry VIII.

Update: I knew I had written about Lieutenant Cathey. I just couldn’t remember where, or when. There have been so many good young men.

At any rate, it was here. It seems almost prophetic, now:

…the saddest part of Lt. Cathey’s story is that when he left to go to war, he, like so many young men, promised to come back to his young wife and the child she was carrying. They say love is stronger than death. It may well prove so in some larger sense, but the sad fact is that Fate had other plans for him.

The Cindy Sheehans of this world would say, “Well, he is nothing but a fool. What did he expect? War is not healthy for Lieutenants and children and other Living Things.” No doubt she thinks it was his recruiter’s fault for selling him on those comic-book visions of war-as-glorified-mayhem from which one emerges ten feet tall, unscathed, and covered with medals…

…but morality is not nature. The harsh laws of the world do not stand in abeyance because we foolishly insist on niceties of human conduct. And people come in all varieties; some greater and some lesser. The greater seem able, by some means, to exert some pull or force on those around them. The lesser are pulled along in their wake like flotsam. But in the modern-day world we are all urged to worship the Great God Practicality who goes by her everyday name Mediocrity: it is the worst sort of sin to try to be better or worse than another and the most arrant foolishness to take unnecessary risks. One must be Sensible. And it is this attitude, I think, that I have rebelled against all my life, to my detriment.

It never seems to occur to anyone that perhaps that is precisely the end he did expect? That perhaps he was not naive at all, or only naive at certain times, or perhaps he was simply incapable of being any other way than the way he was. That though being a Glorious Bastard was not really a conscious decision, it was something he would not have renounced, even if he could have changed his nature?

Semper Fidelis, Lieutenant Cathey. And sleep well.

May this nation never lack for such men.

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