Remembering Sgt. Clarence Lavon Floyd

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Commentator Betty Baye remembers Sgt. Clarence Lavon Floyd, a family member who died on Dec. 10 while serving with the U.S. Army in Iraq. Baye is a columnist for the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky.

TONY COX, host:

Last week, the Pentagon announced it would be cutting back on the US military presence in Iraq. That's a relief for some military families, but not for commentator Betty Baye. She and her family are still struggling to deal with the loss of a fallen soldier.


War is hell and one cannot imagine how hellish until war comes home as it did for my family on December 10th. That's when Sergeant Clarence Lavon Floyd was killed in Iraq. Von was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division based at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. My nephew, Devon's father, Von Floyd, a son of East Harlem and the East River Projects in New York City where we all grew up, came home in a box. And if you've never attended one, know that the US Army knows how to throw a funeral. It was very emotional, a scene that included Von's empty boots and his rifle with his helmet perched on top and a small table nearby that held his photograph and the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart that Von had earned.

Then there was Sergeant Forbes, a man who bears the ugly scars of combat. He was a tower of efficiency and strength throughout until he began to recite the names of the more than a dozen others from Von's platoon who also had been killed since the group arrived in Iraq on October 1st. Reading those names, that's when Sergeant Forbes' voice cracked. Those soldiers died one, two and three at a time.

And at 28, Von was an elder among his peers. Imagine that. From now on when the political class yaks about the war in Iraq, I'll think about the two-hour drive from Harlem to the Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island, and I'll remember how the traffic was stopped and how state police and town police and firefighters all along the way saluted as Von's blood-red hearse passed by. From now on when the political class yaks about the war in Iraq, I'll recall a lonely bugle playing "Taps" and here the rumble of the 21-gun salute. And when the political class debates the righteousness of this war in Iraq, I'll reflect on those rows and rows of white crosses at the military graveyard. I believe there'd be a lot fewer crosses if those who declare war were obliged to share the pain, were obliged to send their own children into battle.

But my feelings about the Iraq War aside, I speak today to honor a fallen warrior. Like thousands before him, Sergeant Clarence Lavon Floyd was sent to war and he died. And his only son, my seven-year-old nephew, Devon, has to know that his daddy was a hero. Von was our hero. Von was beloved. And though only recently dead, he's already and always will be terribly missed.

COX: Betty Baye is a columnist with The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky.

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