Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Comment

Memorial Day is a day that always brings back a lot of sad memories. I rarely reflect on my forty four years of being a funeral director, but this day, things just flash back, that you thought you had  pushed back into the recesses of your mind.
All  military services for our young folks killed in action were difficult, especially the widows left behind with small children who no longer had a father. I knew how in years to come there would always be that empty spot. Just a few pictures, a few service medals, perhaps an old uniform, and the fear that asking your mother about him, would still bring her to tears. I also knew how they would feel when there was no father to give them a word of praise for something they had accomplished in their future, or for that matter, just a dad to be with when you needed to talk.
The reason I say, I knew what the road ahead for those kids would be like is, I lost my father in WWII.
A B-24 co-pilot, whose plane crashed on take off in India, in May of 1945.
There is one Nam era funeral service that stands out in my mind. It was for an Army helicopter pilot who had been killed during a rescue mission. The family requested no military service, only the flag to be placed on the military issue grey casket. The family had a long visitation at the funeral home, so all of us got to know them fairly well during that time. There were two children, a boy of nine, and a girl seven. The wife told us that the kids were especially close to their father and they were dealing with his death the best they knew how. The day of the funeral we were concerned for them and wanted everything to  go smoothly. Which it did. When we arrived at the cemetery and everything was in place the minister had his service, and it was time for us to fold the flag, and present it to the family. The wife had previously told me, that I was to present the flag to his son. At this point the little guy had been pretty dry eyed, and we were wondering if he was trying to be brave for his mother and sister and holding it all internally. So I bent down on one knee, and said the words we were supposed to use. On behalf of a grateful nation, ect., and gently handed the perfect triangle
of  our flag to him. He jumped up and gave me a bear hug around the neck and just bawled his eyes out. At that point there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd, mine included,  I knew far too well how much he would miss his father.
Mine is buried in the Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. I am grateful to the person who put a flag on his grave today and the other activities to be held in the cemetery to honor our service people buried there.
We should continue to be proud of our veterans, and those people serving in the military today. They deserve more thanks than we give them.

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