Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just 15 Minutes

Yesterday, I buried one of my greatest heroes, friends and brothers. The activity surrounding it was all quiet impressive.

Three of my nephews, my husband and I gathered at the funeral home for one last viewing of the deceased. Then the five of us climbed into two different cars and followed the Hurst to Abraham Lincoln’s National Cemetery, in Elwood, IL. We were met by military personnel, a transport car and led to the ceremonial area.

As we moved to the site, my eyes fell upon seven elderly soldiers, dressed in dark blue uniforms, white shirts, red ties, red berets, red honor cords attached to their left shoulders, standing at attention holding firearms and awaiting their commands; two additional retirees, dressed in the same uniforms, stood on opposite sides of the presentation area; one giving the commands to the seven, who stood at attention; the other retiree, silent.

Two more soldiers stood, at equal attention, separately from them; their dress - dark blue uniforms, dark ties, white shirts and dark hats, with a gold cord circling the front of the cap, just above the bib.  They, too flanked the coffin, on either side, when a female spokesperson, dressed in civilian clothing, shivering in the chilling wind, came forth to give a canned welcome/condolence speech and explained the procedure. She encouraged us to cover our ears, as the 21 gun salute took place (which amounted to the seven soldiers, firing their weapons, simultaneously, three times each upon command). I stood silent, my eyes and camera riveted on the shooters, gritting my teeth and fighting back the tears screaming for release with each shot. “I’ll not allow myself to become emotional”, I reasoned. “If I do, I’ll ruin the video; the meaning of this celebration will be lost on my lack of composure. Pull yourself together!” I cautioned myself.  So I did.

Once the firing ceased and the command was given to halt, a lone bugler, stationed about a block away, but still visible, blew “Taps”. The four soldiers, without weapons, stood in a stationary salute, the entire time “Taps” was sounding; the gunners, in parade rest. Once the “Taps” were completed, the silent retiree approached Paul, the eldest son of my brother and gave him three fired cartridge shells in a plastic bag, representing the ones fired on behalf of his dad. His wife is deceased.

As soon as he had resumed his position, the two distinctively, differently dressed soldiers began the flag folding aspect of the ceremony. Methodically and extremely meticulously, they folded the flag into a triangle, tucked its corners and then one of them presented the folded flag to my nephew, immediately after having received a departing salute from his capable assistant. Kneeling, in a statuesque position before my nephew, he expressed condolences for the family of the fallen soldier; arose without issue, saluted and walked militarily away.

The funeral director asked if there were any closing remarks from anyone – silence – seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when no one came forth, because the wind was rising and he appeared chilled; he then directed my nephews and husband to place the casket in the transport car. Afterwards, we each went to the saluting area and retrieved the empty shells as memorials of our own. Everything, had taken place in roughly 15 minutes.


What a life lesson! Despite the pomp and circumstances associated with the service; it just reminded me that all of the years spent in service to mankind, all of the sacrifices made on one’s part for family, friends and country, can be celebrated in 15 minutes of man’s measured time and then tucked away for the final reckoning.  It certainly brings everything into perspective, as to what is important. Therefore, let’s make a pact to put foolishness, in our lives aside, and only concentrate on the important matters like those things that are mentioned in Philippians 4:8, "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

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