Thursday, March 15, 2007

Honored by the Greatest Generation

There are days when something will strike me in such a way that it's like someone turns the light on in a darkened room. Earlier this week was just such a situation. I have done many funerals so far in my ministry. In fact, I love doing funerals. There is something very rewarding about speaking about a person's life and celebrating who they have been in this life.

This funeral was for an extraordinary person. A giving and kind person who respected life. This man was of the Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw has named them. He was born in the first decade of the last century. In fact, he was born during the First World War. When the time came to serve the call of the country during the Second World War, this man went off to serve. His task was to put aircraft back together after the bombing and fighter raids into Germany. He wasn't a combat veteran. But he saw the horrors of war. He didn't talk about his experiences very often. He was very humble about the medals and citations he received, hiding them away in the closet.

For his funeral, the family pulled those medals out and he was buried with them on. He was also buried with full military honors. The local VFW brought out their honor squad. All of them were veterans of WW2, Korean, and Vietnam era wars. I have seen military honors at a funeral before. The 21 gun salute always makes me jump with the first rounds discharged. The flag folding means so much more for me after receiving my grandfather's flag when he died. But the moment of power was the final act of the honors.

After the flag was folded and presented to the family the honor guard lined up and processed past the casket. And each man stopped and saluted the casket.

Here was a man who wanted to put the past behind him. He didn't want to bring honor to that time in his life. He didn't like to talk about it with his family. He didn't want to present the medals that were bestowed upon him.

But those who honored his funeral had seen what he had seen. They knew what war was about. They knew the good and the bad. And because he had served, they showed him an honor. That moment was very moving for me. It spoke tons of the value that was placed on this man's life. Even of something that he didn't see as worthy of honor.
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