Friday, September 7, 2012

Col. Sidney Baker, United States Army, Ret.

Sidney Baker, affectionately known as "Skip" to his family and friends, was born April 5, 1945 and passed away at his residence on August 2, 2012 at the age of 67.

Skip graduated from Odessa High School in 1963 and attended Odessa College.  He proudly served his country in the United States Army for more than 32 years.  His service took him from the jungles of Vietnam, where he was a Captain, to Korea, Operation Desert Storm, the United States Air Force Academy and, finally, to Fort Hood Texas where he served as the G-3 for III Corps.

Skip retired as a Colonel.  His many military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, with V for valor, four Meritorious Service Medals and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.  He was known as a "soldier's soldier".

Funeral services were held on August 7 at the Crawford-Bowers Funeral Home in Killeen, Texas.  In attendance were the Patriot Guard Riders who formed a line of American flags at the entrance to welcome the arriving family and friends.

After the service, the Riders led the funeral procession to  nearby Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, where the family was greeted by fifty American flags blowing in the southerly Texas wind.

The flag draped coffin was carried from the hearse to the committal shelter by the United States Army Honor Guard, and the Riders formed a line flags along the front of the shelter.

The minister read from scripture, said the rite of committal and led the family in final prayers.  He concluded his remarks by reading the text of a letter written 150 years ago by Union Army Major Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah.  He and 93 of his men were mortally wounded at the Battle of Bull Run.

The Army Honor Guard then rendered full military honors.  The detail of five rifles fired three volleys of fire, representing Duty, Honor and Country.  The Army bugler played taps.  The flag that covered the coffin was carefully folded into a triangle and passed to Army Major Belew.

The flag was presented to Skip's dear wife on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for his many years of honorable and faithful service.

The service concluded with the playing of the ever mournful "Amazing Grace" by a piper as he walked off into the distance.

Col. Sidney Baker was laid to rest on the wind swept, grassy plain of the cemetery, as the American flag flew at half-staff in his honor at the top of the hill.  Left to cherish his memory are his wife, three daughters and numerous other dear family, friends and fellow soldiers.

With thanks to Crawford-Bowers for photograph.





Sullivan Ballou's letter to his wife Sarah written July 14, 1861 in Washington D.C.
My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days -- perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure -- and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done.

If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter.

I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing -- perfectly willing -- to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows -- when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children -- is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles I have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us.

I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me -- perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been!

How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours -- always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood.

Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters.

Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them.

O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.


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