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20 November 2000


The Little Girl In The Purple Paisley Dress


Anthony F. Milavic, 

Major, United States Marine Corps, (Retired)



The little girl in the purple paisley dress sat in the middle seat of the front row swinging her legs because they were too short for her feet to reach the ground. Everyone else in that row, as well as those who sat in the two rows behind her, were dressed in dark dresses and dark suits. These were members of the immediate family of Lieutenant Colonel Dandridge S. Carter, USMC who was being interred this day, 17 November 2000, at the Quantico National Cemetery. His remains were contained in a box on the table immediately in front of the little girl in the purple paisley dress. On the opposite side of the table, stood a Marine staff sergeant in dress blues at rigid attention staring past the table to those seated while pressing a United States flag folded in the shape of a cocked-hat against his chest with folded arms. They were all contained easily under the canopy of the Committal Shelter as the rest of the 200 some attendees dressed in dark dresses, dark suits, Marine greens, Marine dress blues and Navy blues stood in a semicircle around the perimeter of the Shelter.


As if on cue, a Navy commander in Navy blue stepped forward and spoke religiously about “Dan” and how a man of his character would be missed. The little girl in the purple paisley dress cried.


Next, a woman with a VFW hat related “Dan’s” work with the VFW and how much he would be missed. The little girl in the purple paisley dress cried.


Then a Navy captain in Navy blue appeared and spoke of “Dan” as a dedicated Marine, father, and husband. He went on to affectionately speak of “Dan” and his penchant for wry or dry humor. The Navy captain in Navy blue spoke with a Boston Irish accent so I thought he was probably a Catholic chaplain. He noted the clear, cool autumn day we were experiencing and how, for Christians, this was not a day of mourning but a day to rejoice for “Dan” had arrived at his eternal reward and was now smiling and waiting for us. The little girl in the purple paisley dress cried.


A man with glasses in a dark suit stepped forward and talked about “Dan’s” work with the Marine Corps Counter-Intelligence Association. Alluding to "Dan's" 30-years of Marine service, he spoke of how widespread the affection and respect was for him and how sorely he would be missed. The little girl in the purple paisley dress cried.


A bearded man in a dark suit spoke with difficulty about “Dan,” choking back emotions with almost every sentence. He remembered: the teacher that was “Dan”; the Marine who was always concerned about the troops; the leader who was meticulous about duty; and, that “Dan” was always there. He reminisced about last visiting the Emerald Coast VFW Post and seeing “Dan’s” picture hanging on a wall with those of previous post commanders and how the VFW will miss him. The little girl in the purple paisley dress cried.


After the eulogies, a Marine lieutenant colonel in dress blues came up to take the United States flag from the Marine staff sergeant in dress blues and deliver it to a woman in a dark dress who was sitting in the same row of seats with the little girl in the purple paisley dress.


We then all turned around to face seven Marines in dress blues with M-14 rifles some 50 yards away. With customary precision, they fired three volleys in salute. This was followed by taps played by an unseen bugler and we continued to stand at attention; in fact, we all just stood there frozen for a minute even after the music had ended.


Walking out to the road thinking about the events of the past 30 minutes, I recognized a Marine colonel in greens who waved to me: She was the only one I recognized at the ceremony.  Closer to the road, the little girl in the purple paisley dress cried while now being carried by a man in a dark suit. I wondered why she had cried so much? Not knowing a lot of words yet, I guessed she was just trying to say, “Grandpa, I miss you ALREADY!”



Semper Little Girls In Purple Paisley Dresses,



Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC(Ret)