“On behalf of a grateful nation”

Friends,

Pictured below is my father’s place of rest in Arlington National Cemetery. My mother found it very fitting he is between a Navy Corpsman and a Marine Gunnery Sargent. When he joined the Navy on July 3rd 1943 as a 17 year old enlisted man, he had no ambitions of being an officer, he just wanted to serve. Yesterday would have been his 92nd birthday.

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One morning last month, at 5am, my brother and his wife quietly left their home several states away and drove to Arlington, for the simple act of placing the wreath above on my fathers grave in person. They drove home the same day. My fathers life inspired such acts. He would have told my brother not to do this, but dad had decades before shown the same reverence for his own parents. 

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I try very hard to focus on the better parts of our nation, but there are times where it is difficult to ignore the diseases and afflictions our society willingly succumbs to; The shameless worship of greed and wealth; Narcissism, once a mental illness, now often mistaken for self-confidence; The belief that all abuses of power can be apologized for if one just can find a ‘therapist’ or clergy to vouch for a fake contrition; The list seems endless and at times seems to bury all the national virtues we once agreed were sacred.

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However, there is a place were the ideals of this nation, not its day to day dysfunctions, are still sacred, fidelity and courage the only currency of value.  This place is Arlington. It is a place in our country were we have not lost our way, where our better angels are still alive and well. It is reserved for Americans who chose to give their youth, and in many cases the balance of everything they might have done with their lives, to a cause greater than themselves. When the hour of their lives closed, a solemn uniformed serviceman knelt in front of a widow, or a mother, or the casket, and presented a carefully folded flag of our nation with the same statement: “On behalf of a grateful nation”. 

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No part of my fathers story should ever be seen as a tragedy. He accomplished nearly everything he wished to do in life, including pass at home in the presence of my mother and family.  His 33 years in uniform were something he regarded as a privilege, his chance to demonstrate his complete fidelity to the ideals of our nation.

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Throughout his life, my father wanted to draw attention to the service of others who lost their lives at a young age. He had many stories of men he knew personally who sacrificed everything they might have done in this life, demonstrating their fidelity to the ideals of our country.  My father would want you to understand that my 90 year old mother accepting the flag was a simple honor, and the word tragedy should carefully be reserved for a 20 year old spouse or a 40 year old mother receiving the same flag. He would quietly point out that no matter with was wrong with our country, there would always be people willing to die for it, and that alone should motivate any citizen to conduct their life with thankfulness and simple decency.

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wewjr.

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