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View a eulogy for J. Arlen Ecker, USMA '89, who passed away on January 20, 2010.

J. Arlen Ecker

West Point, 1989

Be Thou At Peace

Posted by W. John Oliver on January 27, 2010:

When I die, old friend, come and knock on my coffin
Knock with an open hand, palm facing down
I will know it is you, by the low, solid "Thunk!"
Come, brothers, to find me, and knock your farewell

Don't hesitate to travel great distance
When the time comes for you to knock on my coffin
Come, you one thousand, grey-garmented warriors
From Washington's Basement, up through the mess

Cross oceans if needed to pay your respects
To all that we weathered together before
When life was much simpler (though we didn't know it)
Remember by knocking...greet me one more time

Dress in rags or a morning suit, I won't care
But be sure to bring the single emblem
That binds us one to another for all time
And when you pass by my coffin, knock with it

If you are a senator, or a mechanic
Whether or not you ever wore stars
On this day I stand at the front of our column
Knock! Come give me my tribute, though I won't reply

I will hear you. And my children will see you
My widow will know you valued your memory of me
You remembered standing with me that day
Shivering in the cold rain, ringed, wrapped in wool and hatless

In unison we felt the elation
Convinced we had endured life's fiercest lessons
Prepared to brave our calling, "Strengthen the Line!"
Knock to jog your memory of that moment we shared

Now knock again, for the time we wore green
Schooled by great soldiers in the art of our profession
Discipline, Temperance, Selflessness, Industry
Knock on my coffin for these warrior's virtues

We stood once together in Dahlonega
Suffering privation, hands cracked and bleeding
Frozen but inspired to sing Pirate Songs
Knock! to remind yourself of that glorious time

And on the night before you knock on my coffin
Make a bonfire, for those shivering, wind-howling weeks
Struggling against our mortality to prove our mettle
Drink spirits by that fire, so strong they burn your throat

Stand with a hundred others, wearing your rings
Rehearsing words you'll share with my family
About all the foolish things we did together
And what great men we hoped to become

Knock to rattle my decaying bones, old friend
I don't need them any longer, make music with them
Dance with irreverence that mocks the solemn mood
Just be sure you first knock on my coffin

Nothing else you might do can offend me
So long as you slap your ring to reassure me
That you have not forgotten our journey
And to demonstrate the power, the unshakable passion of our bond

We had the good fortune to grow up together
So pause...long enough to knock on my coffin
Sing the Alma Mater with an old man's breath
Then return to your life grateful for this uncommon brotherhood

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