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02 February 2010

Last Rites for the Military

"The flag-draped coffin is secured inside a cargo plane... Military and civilian crews take great care with the remains of U.S. military personnel... Soldiers form an honor guard and say a prayer... The coffin is loaded for the trip home." (Seattle Times, April 21, 2004*)

As I read the story that described how the fallen military members were transported home from Iraq, my heart swelled with love and pride. The pictures that I have seen that show the American Flag draped coffins are incredible as our nation's red, white and blue flag is so beautiful and I hold it in such high respect and honor, as do the men and women who fight under it and some, unfortunately die under it.

My dear father spent 23 years of active duty in the military with combined service in the Navy and Air Force, retiring as an E-9, CMSGT. One of the awards he received was the Legion of Merit, which is an accomplishment in itself. He saw World War II and all the wars that followed until his retirement in 1963.

There have been many in our family who have served in the military and as you can see by my father's length of service, I am an "Air Force Brat" as we are affectionately called. I love the title and cherish it still today.

He often talked of his final wishes, as to how he is to be cared for at his demise. He is to be flown from his present home in North Carolina to Southeast Iowa where he will be buried in a National Cemetery with my mother. He is to be dressed in his blue Air Force uniform, decorated with all the medals he had acquired during his wonderful and memorable career while serving his country. There will be a flag draped coffin and an honor guard to give him a 21-gun-salute, followed by the playing of Taps.

I can only imagine that he will be treated with the same respect and dignity as the current military men and women who have served our country without remorse or regret. They deserve our respect and love and we need to outwardly express it in whatever positive manner we can, be it flying the flag outside our homes, tying yellow or red, white and blue ribbons on our properties, sending cards and letters filled with well wishes and support or sending much welcomed and needed packages to these brave men and women in the countries they serve in at this time.

It was hard to hold back my proud tears when my father shared with me, when the war started in Iraq he called Washington D.C., and told them he would be willing to serve again should his country need him. He was told that was appreciated, but it most likely would not come to that.

When my father passed, his remains were flown to Keokuk Iowa to the Keokuk National Cemetery. Since he was cremated, his urn was placed in the ground with his Air Force uniform wrapped around it. At the memorial service wonderful words about "service" were spoken eloquently by Jay Richardson. There was an honor guard and a 21 gun salute. All was perfect; just as he had requested. Another soldier honored with the respect due to him.

Let us not argue about the things we cannot agree on, but let us show our support to those who have taken up the gauntlet and have gone to fight the fight that keeps us safe and helps to free oppressed nations.

May God bless all the nations of the world who support freedom for all and may He comfort the families of those who have lost their lives fighting for this cause.

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