It is becoming an all too-familiar scene; the hearses lined up in front of the church, the steady procession of black attire and the plethora of military attire. Yet, this week, Good Shepherd Catholic Church was once again the place where friends and neighbors came to remember and honor someone who was killed because of the greater conflict in the world; one which was set in place on September 11, when several parishioners lost loved ones in the attack on the Pentagon.
The scene was replayed yet again when Matthew Commons was killed in Afghanistan almost two years ago. This week, the service was for Chief Warrant Officer Sharon T. Swartworth. She was killed on Nov. 7, when the helicopter she was riding in was shot down over Tikrit. Hundreds of people gathered for her service, including family members, friends and neighbors, and co-workers.
Brigadier General Jerome Habarek presided over the service. He spoke about how mothers are amazing people and how they are heroes. How wives are partners, friends and lovers and heroes. How daughters are the joy of a father and will always be daddy's little girl. How officers put the needs of others above their own; and believe that the soldiers of their command are everything.
"Today, we gather to honor Sharon, a mother, wife, daughter, NCO, officer and a soldier. Sharon is and always will be a hero," said Habarek.
TWO OF HER co-workers spoke at length about Swartworth's strengths and legacy.
"What an individual. Everybody knows that she was a ball of energy. Sharon may have been small, but she had a big heart," said one officer. "When somebody needed assistance, she was there to help. She always volunteered for everything. Sharon enjoyed helping people.
"I've known Sharon for 20 years, and she often called me for advice. She was very competitive and when she called me to say that she had reservations about becoming an NCO, I told her, 'What you don't know, you'll learn.' Sharon had great ideas and knew how to get things done. She was a great warrant officer and did more for the JAG Crop than any other one person."
The second co-worker opened his remarks by looking out at the audience, and saying "Cool." Before one had time to think that he was being disrespectful, he went on to say, "That's what Sharon would say if she were here.
"Her family, friends, members of the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corp, non-commissioned officers and officers, we're all here in the same room. She would love this."
He went on to say how much she loved the army and how she needed her father to sign for her since she joined as soon as she got out of high school. He told a story of how even when she was a baby she would bump her crib across the room so that she could see what was going on.
He spoke about a surprise birthday party that her husband gave her, and how, when she went to work the next day, she reported that she was not in full compliance with the dress code, something that she was a stickler for. The discrepancy was the diamond bracelet that her husband had given her and that she wanted to wear even though it put her in violation.
"She transformed the warrant officer corp into a group of leaders. She created an advance training course that went beyond the JAG Corp training and expanded the scope of their duties. She brought together a diverse group of people and forced them to work together."