Here’s something I wrote on December 21, 2006, almost 12 years ago. It suggests that, just perhaps, longevity and a nation’s gratitude can be a fitting gift for a life of dedicated service.
Today I was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of a friend. He was definitely “old school,” born in 1906. That’s right, he lived to be 100 years and 6 months old. He was married to his sweetheart for 68 years (which would have been 75 years had she outlived him). That’s definitely “old school.”
Career military, he joined the Army in the 20’s during post-WWI. He because part of the Air Force when it broke away from the Army Air Corps, then retired in 1956. That was over 50 years ago. He saw action WWII and Korea. The pallbearers were all VFW members; the youngest one of them was a Korea vet. Among the active and honorary pallbearers, there were a number of WWII and Korea vets and one Vietnam vet … me.
He was buried with full military honors, including a 21-gun respect … in a downpour. The Air Force NCO who played “Taps” stood at attention in the rain and played it masterfully. I couldn’t tell you if there were any dry eyes left in the crowd because mine wasn’t. How anyone could experience that and not feel it deeply would be a mystery to me.
I stood directly behind this man’s son and daughter (both in their 60s or even early 70s) and witnessed the folding and the presentation of the flag to the family. I could hear the airman clearly: “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force, and a grateful nation …”
Moving. No, MORE than moving.
In times where our young folks often see someone like this man as just a “funny old person,” it’s important that we let them know that it was men and women like this who earned for us the freedoms we enjoy today.
A semi-retired child and adolescent psychologist and speaker, Dr. James Sutton is the author of The Changing Behavior Book: A Fresh Approach to the Difficult Child. His website is http://www.DocSpeak.com; his blog is http://www.itsaboutthem.wordpress.com.