At 66, Barry Marquardt prefers to spend his precious time with people who “show up.” That’s what he does. The Vietnam War-era Marine shows up when it comes to a brother Marine, a grieving family, a sick friend.
He did not know , but in a sense, of course, he did. He and fellow veterans and supporters were volunteers Saturday, playing a small role in the rendering of honors, the final military ritual that binds the deep wounds of loss.
“We’re Marines, and with that title comes responsibility,” said Mike Belmessieri, 64, commandant of the detachment of the Marine Corps League, made up of retired Marines and associates, called the J.C. Breckinridge Detachment. It’s the same for Rich Brugger, commander of the state’s 14th district of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and for members of the Marine Corps Motorcycle Club, who were among the nearly 2,000 people at the service at St. Francis High School for Manoukian.
“I’m here to honor the man," Balmessieri said. "To honor the brother.”
Marquardt found other connections. He grew up in Los Altos, down the street from its first mayor, Watson Conner. His best friend from the Marine Corps is Armenian, like Manoukian, who "have a great history in the Marine Corps."
He knows what it’s like to lose a son. That was more than enough for him to drive from Foster City to render final honors. “What I can do is help others,” he said. “Sometimes just knowing someone else has gotten through it, helps.”
On Saturday, the last step of an emotional, three-hour funeral service unfolded in a processional from the gymnasium to the sun-dappled quad of Saint Francis High School.
To the strains of the bagpipe played by Lettie Smith, the pallbearers brought out the casket bearing Capt. Manoukian. His parents and family members followed slowly and stopped when the casket was placed on a bier in the front of the Sobrato Family Learning Center for final honors.
The Commander of the California Highway Patrol presented the flag of the state of California to Capt. Manoukian’s mother, Patricia Bamattre-Manoukian, and stepped away.
With slow and deliberate movements, two Marines lifted the flag and displayed it, as seven riflemen held their .233-caliber M16s and delivered three volleys each in a 21-gun salute.
The bugler played “Taps.”
And then they began to fold the flag, fold by fold, into a tight triangle. Marine Major General Paul Lefebvre, Commander of the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, who had flown with his staff from Camp LeJeune, N.C., approached slowly, took the flag and presented it to Manoukian’s mother. The slow salute, deliberate and stately, is not easily forgotten.
“On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps.”
The pallbearers lifted the casket and walked slowly across one side of the quad and to the waiting hearse. The J.C. Breckinridge Detachment was waiting, too.
Belmessieri and his detachment gave the slow salute.
And then it was time to leave.