We all knew, after learning of the death of Fort Worth’s last Tuskegee Airman – Dr. Robert T. McDaniel – that a wake, funeral service and interment with full military honors had to be well-planned and executed with military precision.
Such was demonstrated on Thursday, March 28 at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church of Fort Worth. Following a moving Farewell Service, each of us realized a bittersweet moment was occurring. On this beautiful sunlit day, the other side of the tombstone’s “dash” separating his birth and death had arrived.
The sacred remains of this Tuskegee Airman had to be transported to the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery and to his final resting place.
It was at this point that the Fort Worth Police Department took the lead and, with its top professional motorcycle detail along with several marked and unmarked squad vehicles, announced to the city of Fort Worth and the great state of Texas: “STOP FOR A MOMENT! AN AMERICAN HERO IS ROLLING THROUGH!”
With the true professionalism of the Fort Worth Police Department Motorcycle Detail were the freeways temporarily shut down.
As a native Texan, I cannot remember the last time freeways on a Thursday afternoon (at approximately 1315 hours in military speak, or 1:15 p.m.) remained clear, clean, quiet and respectful for such an occasion as this one.
Even Mr. James Baker, owner and director of the historical Baker Funeral Home, could recall only one other time when such a procession had similar honors. That was the funeral of Charles Gaines, Fort Worth’s first African-American fire chief, whose unexpected death from a heart attack in 2006 shocked many of us.
Thanks to the Fort Worth Police Department’s willingness to share the funeral procession route with the public via The Star-Telegram did citizens stand on the side of freeways, bridges, ramps and vehicles, with solemn looks and salutes. They assumed parade rest and, with visible tears, stood tall as those beautifully operated Fort Worth Police motorcycles led a long line of the duty-bound – family, friends, and grateful Americans – to the DFW National Cemetery.
For an American hero.
As a final tribute to Dr. Robert T. McDaniel, several of the Fort Worth PD Motorcycle Detail members stood at attention by their “motors” and saluted the funeral hearse and family motorcade as each entered the cemetery.
What a magnificent sight it was to see!
To top it all off, at precisely 2:15 p.m. an official flyover came roaring by – in essence saying goodbye to a once-fellow pilot. As one plane tipped up and over, its motions were stating: “Robert T. McDaniel, you accomplished much in your time, a great many things. Now it’s time for you to take your rest. We now have the watch, to guard the skies you once treasured.”
As the sounds of those planes departed, this chaplain could not help but think of Thursday’s opening baseball game occurring approximately 25 miles west of our location – knowing that were it not for Robert T. McDaniel and his brave actions, there might not be such a game occurring.
May his next flight upward require no engines at all.
(Honors and attendees for Robert T. McDaniel’s funeral service included an official letter from the Texas Governor’s Office; representatives of the Texas Land Commissioner and two U.S. congressional offices; a brigadier general from the Texas Military Department; the command chaplain from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base; Bishop D.D. Hayes, chief of chaplains for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport the acting chief of Fort Worth Police Department; Fort Worth Executive Fire Department Command Representatives; several executives from Tarrant County offices; the President & CEO of Tarrant County United Way; members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.; the Tuskegee Airmen Association; numerous Patriot Guardsmen; and many other concerned citizens.)