Recently I was honored to attend the Funeral/Burial of one of my best friends, wife’s father. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Arlington is one of just a few that provide graveside full military honors and it is a special thing to witness. It was one of the most beautiful days one could ask for. And being he was a former pilot (Tuskegee Airman) I’m sure he would have loved this day. Clear skies, slight breeze, fall colors starting on the trees. But most of all a daughter and her family, to be very proud of.
The service and ceremony were outstanding. The Military sometimes does get it right in taking care of their own and this was certainly the case here. It was a wonderful thing to be part of and gut wrenching at the same time on a very personal level. My father was buried there when I was 9 years old, just a short distance from the site we were standing on. That was a day in my life that left a very deep mark on my memory.
While I visit my Father and also my Mothers grave there now I always go on Sundays or holidays for the privacy and thinking of good things. You see we have conversations. I tell them what their grand children are up to. I apologize for the things they would be disappointed in me in. I share good news of accomplishments.I tell them what my wife and I are up to. I enjoy taking them flowers because both of them loved a good garden. I ask them how their neighbors are doing. I tell them how much I miss them. I try to think that they are proud of some of my life so far and to live in a way that they would approve of.
But I go on Sundays for the expressed purpose of not having to deal with the gut wrenching sounds and symbols that come with a burial. Those cause me great grief and hurt my heart and sole. The sight of a flag being folded and laid in loved ones hands. The words from the military Chaplin. The sound of the 21 gun salute. The image of the horse drawn caisson with casket draped in the flag. The music from the military band and of course the hardest thing, hearing Taps played by a bugler in the distance. I can’t describe how those things feel, they bring me to tears because of my memories. I’ll think of those images yesterday for weeks to come. But not from yesterday but from 48 years ago.
After the service, my wife and I went over to my parents grave. It wan’t the usual experience I had come to feel comfortable with on Sundays. But it was good none the less. On the way home we had to pick up my wife’s mother who was with her father at the local hospital. Interestingly enough on the way up to his room we passed the room my Mother was in right before she passed just a few years ago. It was kind of strange that those things happened on the same day.
But the real reason for writing this little tidbit is to Honor those families who have made great sacrifices over many years and decades or paid the ultimate price for service. For this is the point the Chaplin yesterday made that resonated with me. For me, the generation that fought WW-ll and Korea, this was a tough group who was also raised during the depression. This was a group that knew the importance of LIFE. And focusing on the right things. They knew about what was the small stuff in life. They experienced great hardship. Not to say that subsequent veterans have made any less contribution at all. But that is the era of service people I know. An uncle who flew missions in a B-17 over Europe. Another uncle was was on the West Virginia at Pearl Harbor and heavy cruisers in the Pacific. My father who was on a Destroyer in WW-ll and served in Korea also.
I thank every service man and woman and also their families because it is a sacrifice for all. And for some its the ultimate sacrifice. And far too many people in this country don’t appreciate it.