I attended a military funeral this week, complete with the playing of taps and the presenting of the colors.
The clear, simple notes drifting through the air, mingling with the wind in the trees and the muted sobs of mourners, makes an indelible impression on the senses.
If the emotions of a funeral aren’t enough to bring a lump to your throat, taps will.
I wasn’t at the funeral of a local soldier who died in Iraq, which was held Monday in Monroe County. I was at the funeral of my mother-in-law, 2,000 miles away in Oregon at a tiny hilltop cemetery surrounded by towering cedar trees.
My wife’s mother was a Navy WAVE, serving in San Diego during World War II, supporting the troops who moved through the base on their way to the Pacific. She also worked in a factory building parts for war planes.
The honor guard was a trio of women currently serving in the Navy. They said it was the first military funeral for a woman in that district in 30 years, and they were proud to participate.
When I returned to the office today and read the coverage of Army Sgt. Christopher Messer’s funeral, I was struck by the similarities.
Even though Sgt. Messer died a few weeks ago in Iraq, in the service of his country, while my wife’s mother served more than 60 years ago, both were properly honored for their contributions to our nation’s security.
Both were touching ceremonies that reminded us of the importance of honoring the men and women who serve their country – while at the same time remembering their special contributions to their families and communities.
At The Evening News, we look for every opportunity to publish news about our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Whether it’s a feature about a recruit headed to Iraq for the first time, or a special section honoring the veterans of World War II, we know how much our readers appreciate hearing the stories.
The two funerals came in the same week that President Bush announced a troop buildup in Iraq.
It’s not a popular announcement. But I’m convinced – and I think virtually every resident of Monroe County agrees – that it’s critical that we continue to show our support for our servicemen and women, regardless of what we think about the president’s decision.
As I stood at the graveside and listened to taps, I couldn’t keep my thoughts from wandering to Iraq, and to friends and relatives with children serving in the military.
I desperately want the U.S. military to get out of Iraq - to quit fighting someone else’s war with our young men and women. But I just as desperately want all of our armed forces to know that whether we agree with their commanders or not, we support their efforts.
Anyone who knows of Monroe County men or women going to Iraq or Afghanistan - or returning from the war areas – let us know about it. We want to continue telling their stories.