At ten-thirty Monday morning our quiet little town honors her war dead. I and my wife will attend, seeing old friends, sharing thoughts, feelings and memories with others of a similar mind set. So many flags, so many graves, so many reasons
and all for us. I wrote this once, some have seen it. I share it again
I sit subdued
Emotionally such as a wrung out dish rag, I sit subdued.
I would like to share this with you
As I prepared to dress for the Memorial
..pondering, what to wear?
After all, this is a Baptist church.
I chose a striped red and white shirt, along with new blue jeans.
And my blue ball cap
On the way out, remembering, grabbing the colors, flying them in front of my home.
Departing, loping along towards our destination some half mile distant.
Turning left, noting the full dress veterans standing by the entrance, this American man and his American wife parked their American truck in front of an American church.
I heard a voice, Hey! I was hoping you would come!
Turning, recognizing one of these men, the old Marine I spoke with just last week, donating five bucks for disabled vets, acknowledging my respect for the Corps.
Smiling, he took my hand
Thank you for coming! Step inside, its all in there.
That proved to be an understatement, but I knew I belonged.
Removing my hat, stuffing it in a back pocket, stepping forward inside the church.
What a pretty place, tasteful, yet not ostentatious at all. Very quiet and dignified.
The wife and I took a pew in the back, immediately in front of the honor guard.
Quietly, we waited, soaking up the ambiance, admiring the artwork.
Then I picked up a program, Old Glory covering the front.
To open it
Suddenly the cadence of drumbeats, slowly the honor guard from Dos Palos High School marched down the aisle, saluting the Veterans of Foreign Wars seated behind us, pausing in front of the flags up front, finally taking their own seats.
The Pastor, an older, dignified gentleman, approached the podium, the congregation silent.
Smiling Im glad you all came. Seems we have a full house. Would you all stand and join me in the Pledge of Allegiance?
As a unit, we stood, placing my hand over my heart
one voice, from one people..
I pledge allegiance, to the flag,
Of the United States of America.
And to the republic, for which it stands;
One nation, under God,
With liberty and justice for all.
The Pastor again, Please remain standing, join me in the first stanza of our National Anthem.
Again, one voice from one people
.slowly the last words fading to silence.
Please be seated.
Suddenly kids, lots of kids, aged from about eight to twelve, helter-skelter, seeking to form a single rank at the front of the church.
The children of Emmanuel will now share, This is my country.
I looked at these kids, black, white, brown, red and Asian.
One child opened, voice quavering
..a second took over, performing her piece, a third
then all at once
..myyyyyyy.. country, laaaaand of my own
Spontaneous, thunderous applause broke out.
My eyes filled with tears.
Im a total wuss about these things.
The wife smiled. She once told me everybody needs a soft spot, noting how I was harder than flint when angered, precisely focused on a target, calmly filled with an imperative, never deviating or relenting.
But she is right, we all need one
There is indeed hope
.in a humble house of God.
Every child played a part, sang their piece, and all shared the chorus three times, voices loud, proud and strong
I wiped my eyes with my hat.
Again, rousing applause, one woman standing, followed by a man, and yet another, till all of us stood clapping and cheering on these kids.
Calm reigned. The Pastor again
I would like to welcome our state assembly woman Barbara Matthews, she has some words for us. Barbara
She spoke of sacrifice and pain, despair and joy, sorrow and sadness.
She spoke of the officiation of a funeral of a young vet killed in Iraq, a citizen of her district.
I never want to do that again
.the faces of his friends and family.
But I will if called upon.
As did they.
She then thanked us and took her seat.
The Pastor rose, Would you now join me in singing, My country, tis of thee
powerful and poignant at this time.
one people, one voice.
After all, it is ouuuuurrrrrr country
Another man took the podium, introducing himself as an educational administrator here in Dog Patch. He began
There is another group of people seldom mentioned or remembered. They served their country, returning home to a life of toil and labor, all quite often because they had not completed their education, deferring it to serve their country. Somehow, in all the rush, a job was found, a family started, the education forgotten.
We have a program here in this school district to help these men. I have here two high school diplomas earned by two individuals sitting in this church
.I would like to take this moment to present them now
Would Mr. Garcia, A Vietnam vet, please step forward?
A man a little older than I slowly stood, tentatively stepping to the aisle, then stepping forward
By the power vested in me by the State of California I now present to you your diploma as a graduate of Dos Palos High School.
Ringing applause filled the church
.. but you could have heard a pin drop thirty seconds later
A brief introduction from the administrator, The next graduate went to war in World War Two, leaving high school in his senior year to serve his country and protect his family. Upon his return he fathered a family and has toiled in the fields for the rest of his working life.
Mr. Ramirez? Would you please
Like I say
A very old man, very old, struggled to his feet two pews in front of us. Hand on a rail, he was handed a set of walking crutches, the kind with a horizontal grip for your hand, wrap around your wrist with one pole extending to the floor.
Trembling, one pole to the aisle, a foot gently extended
pausing, the other brace extended, trembling with the effort, sliding the other foot, standing in the aisle.
Oh my Gawd! I dont believe this! Dammit! Wheres my hat?
A journey of perhaps twenty feet
and sixty years.
Shaking, pausing, one small step at a time, an endless trek for a seemingly redundant goal
.but I found myself admiring and loving this man.
Mr. Ramirez, by the power vested in me
We afforded him the dignity of silence as he returned to his seat, diploma tightly clenched in his left hand.
The Pastor, wiping his eyes, Would you all now join me in America the beautiful, first and last stanza?
Somehow she never seemed more beautiful than she did right then.
We put our hearts and lungs into this one.
Now it is time to ask of those with loved ones serving to please let us know who you are.
We sat silent as a large box of big candles was opened.
The woman doing needlepoint down the pew from us
I have two grandsons serving in Iraq, one on the front lines, the other right behind him.
My daughter just graduated from basic training at Lackland Air Force base.
The list was long, far too long.
Finally, the box, empty, having served it purpose, was set aside.
And finally, we have remembered those serving, those forgotten and those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Yet one group remains
Would any honorably discharged veterans having served in the armed forces please stand up?
Oh noooooooo! I didnt come here for this!
The Other Half looked at me.
I stood up.
Along with about ten other guys.
We were applauded.
I sat down, shaken.
Another pastor took the podium
The price of freedom?
In a word, costly.
He then listed numbers, big numbers.
And wounded or crippled.
Civilians killed, caught in the cross fire.
Millions of dead, trillions of dollars
.in a word, costly.
We are now involved in a conflict where our very faith and values are under assault, from enemies both without and within. There are those caring little or nothing for our values or our faith, preferring instead to attack us. There are those seeking to simply ignore all going on and get on with their lives. There are those that hate God, using support for our enemies as a method of attacking us. There remain also those claiming our beliefs and values yet not implementing them in their daily lives.
Oh yeah, the part time Christians. Use it enough to ease their conscience, but never enough to guide their lives
I did feel anger then, a quiet, firm resolve. I viewed the message of love and brotherhood here, contrasting that to the rude cacophony of our detractors, their words hollow, humanistic and barren. In truth meriting little but pity.
The voice in my mind
.They will not prevail, Kent, not in the long haul. No
I listened. The message of belief and faith, dignity and calm. I needed to hear that too.
But his point was made
And well taken.
A group, a choir formed in front of us
The Battle hymn of the Republic
..one of my favorites.
The Pastor again, It is time, please remain seated for the offering, then wait for the color guard to exit, followed by the salute and Taps.
I coughed up a fiver
Then stood silently at parade rest as the colors departed, followed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Standing quietly, hearing the words
Suddenly the silence shattered by seven M1 Garands thundering out their message, not one of anger and defiance, but rather of respect, salutation and gratitude.
And God knows how many others
The quiet, somber tones of Taps crept into the church, silencing us, heads bowed, thoughts our own
Then we realized it was over
Or in truth has it only begun?????
I still sit here quiet
Im glad I went.
I will do so again next year.
I will do so tomorrow at eleven at the cemetery
This is ouuuurrrr country!
I will do everything in my power to defend her, and my Christian heritage.
I remember the words so well
.I do solemnly swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, so help me God.
She means so much more to me now than when I was young
You know, it really got to me writing this, but I had to share it with somebody.