Today was a beautiful day. The weather in the Pacific northwest was mild, the sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. What better day to take a drive out to the Oregon coast.
Today I drove to the coast for a visit with a friend.
I attended a memorial service today. Bill Rust is Karen’s husband and Karen is a very dear friend of mine. Bill served our country in the Army during the Vietnam war and beyond. Today I learned more about how he continued to be very active in his community. Active with the local VFW, which was well represented at the service. Active with CAP (Civil Air Patrol) which was also well represented, SARS, his church and more.
I also learned of his lighter side, such as the time when he threw down a challenge to the pastor at his church. Suffice it to say, this dare involved Dave (the pastor), Bill and a bit of hot pink nail polish! Oh, and the clear glow-in-the-dark top coat neither one of them actually knew about… Imagine the surprise when one of them woke up in the night and saw all these glowing “eyes” staring back at them!
I also learned of his gift for cooking a turkey at Thanksgiving – and the single time over the years that the bird didn’t cooperate… Operator error?? No way!! Dratted roasting pot!
Bill’s service was the first I’ve ever attended where military honors were given. Sure, I’ve seen depictions of the various things that are done. The flag, the 21 gun salute, Taps. But I’ve never actually seen them in person. Never heard it for the one being honored right there in the room where I was.
It blew me away.
When it was time, the Honor Guard member came into the sanctuary with a folded flag. (There was no casket due to cremation.) He placed the flag up front, saluted and held the salute. The doors at the back of the sanctuary were opened wide. Then, upon command, the first of three rounds split the air. The 21 gun salute had begun. Round two came. Then round three.
Then the haunting sound of a flawless Taps came through the open doors. I stood with the rest of the congregation, tears falling. I truly cannot remember another time when I have been so moved.
The honor, the gift of thanks to Bill for his service, the gift of thanks to his family were so beautiful.
The Honor Guard members then unfolded the flag and, with a snap, spread it out wide at shoulder height. They then painstakingly re-folded it into the triangle we’re all used to seeing. Once done, the flag was presented to Karen with these words, “On behalf of the President of the United States and the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation.”
I, too, am grateful for the service Bill rendered to our nation. And for the service countless other military members have given. I am grateful for the years he and Karen had with each other. I am grateful to have known him, even though only briefly. And I am grateful to have been there today to enjoy the beautiful day, to have a quiet drive over to the coast, to cry with honest emotions during the service and to hold Karen in the tightest hug I could give and be at least little bit of the rock that she needs and is leaning upon during these days of hurting and, eventually, healing.
Rest in peace, Bill. I thank you.