Claude Darius Alexander
West Point, 1969
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by lonnie adams on November 4, 2007:
Claude won’t sit with us anymore at lunch, expounding on wine and his work with the wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He will no longer be there to turn down our half-hearted efforts to pick up the check. It was at these lunches, Meg, Philip and Kevin, that John Brundage and I heard of his joy of being your father.
He talked at length about sharing the experience of skydiving with you, Philip, and also the pride he had in Kevin as the undersized defensive co-captain of his High School football team, and joys and frustrations of moving his daughter, Meg, to New York City. How perplexed he was that a child of his could find the Big Apple a suitable place to live.
I am sure that Claude would be surprised by the depth of emotion and feeling here in this Church this morning. It would have never occurred to him that he was so popular and widely appreciated, as he was a humble man with no reason for humility. Claude did not know that the word “I” could be used, perhaps he was unaware that the first person singular existed. To paraphrase, George Bernard Shaw said, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are”. Claude did not believe in circumstances. People like Claude got up and looked for the circumstances they wanted, and if they could not find them, they made them.
Denise, you have remarked often that his happiest moments were at West Point. Claude had many happy times as long as he was being challenged. For those of us who attended your wedding, we saw a different Claude, one who had finally found happiness and contentment; perhaps you provided a challenge also to get to that wedding day. That was a challenge he won, thankfully. The greater the challenge the happier Claude was. That is why he was an honor graduate in Ranger school, and also why he treasured his first assignment as a platoon leader in L company 75th Ranger regiment in the 101st Abn Div in Vietnam. Some people think of Claude in terms of a man who lived on the edge or as a risk taker, he was so much more than that. He was a giving and kind friend and someone with larger than life compassion for those who faced physical challenges such as our wounded warriors at Walter Reed. No one could go looking to Claude for sympathy, he was always there first with sincere campassion. As only a man who had known pain and suffering could give.
Claude was not necessarily an outwardly religious man, but he was a spiritual man who knew the value of silence while listening to what the good lord needed to say to him. Kevin, He was religious enough to call me up at 2 o’clock in the morning in Germany to ask Pat and I to be your god parents. Not apologizing for the hour but with his dry wit he wondered why we were sleeping in. Claude had a special guardian angel with him all his life. Right next to him in his hospital room, Claude was surrounded by his family holding his arms and stroking his head. With loved ones and good friends and at his bedside, he was at peace with the world and with himself. He lied there, seemingly at attention, with shoulders back and down and chin well in and his arms along his sides and thumbs along the seams of his trousers. Its almost as if he were reliving the first days he first reported in at West Point, practicing some heavenly version for St. Peter. Sir, New Cadet Alexander reports to the First Sergeant of the First New Cadet Company for the first time as ordered. He passed away at the hour of the divine mercy with those in attendance praying the chaplet. As in life, Claude always knew when and where he wanted to go and the best way to get there. Meg, Kevin, and Philip, I once read a column that said the greatest gift a father gives his children is a sense of immortality. For all of us here this morning, he gave us the sense of indestructibility; we mourn today for those losses.
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