For me it began on Mother’s Day. My wife and I celebrated this annual event with my mother on Saturday night so that my wife could spend Sunday afternoon with her mother.
So after completing our morning church services, mom and I headed to Ripon High School for an afternoon concert on the grassy amphitheater. It just so happened that the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West was in town. They performed a wonderful variety of musical selections to a most appreciative audience of locals who came out with lawn chairs and blankets on this warm spring day.
Concluding the performance was the song, “The Last Full Measure of Devotion.” It was a poignant reminder of the cost of Freedom. It reminded me of those days back in the 1950s and early ‘60s when we’d have community get-togethers with WWI, WWII and Korean War veterans. I miss that, but it was good to get a taste of it again.
While at the concert a poem printed on patriotic paper was being handed out to all in attendance, entitled, “Walk Proud Veteran,” written by Patty Bickle in 1988. Two verses got my attention:
Don’t be discouraged Veteran,
By those who don’t seem to care –
Perhaps they don’t understand
The reasons why you were there.
Walk proud Veteran,
With your head held high!
All America should shake your hand
When they see you passing by.
Then on Wednesday there was a funeral service for Cpl Charles Palmer. He was killed May 5th by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Iraq. It seems like all of the folks in Manteca came out to show their respects. I’m told there were 2400 American flags lining the streets of town, not to mention the dozens more adorning the Manteca First Assembly of God Church where the service was held. You see, the pastor is a Vietnam veteran.
During the service for this Marine, his wife read the words he had written when he reenlisted in the Marines, November 28, 2005, in his mid-30s. It’s simply called, “Why I Want to be a Marine.”
“I, Charles O. Palmer II, reenlist in the Marines because it is home. The camaraderie, loyalty, and comfort level is not found outside of the Marines. I have attempted, and was unable at this point to find a job equal to the Marines – one that enables you to feel a sense of accomplishment that I felt on a daily basis while serving my country. I look forward to serving with others that have the sense of duty that is unwavering no matter what challenges we face."
The funeral procession drove through the town on its way to the cemetery accepting the cheers and tears of well-wishers standing among the American flags flapping vigorously in the afternoon delta breeze. Rolling past an elementary school, all the children, along with their teachers, were standing respectfully against the cyclone fence separating them from the hearse bearing the body of their local hero. Some of the children were holding up small American flags; others were quietly waving to the passing caravan; and the rest stood still, simply watching the somber event.
Well-known radio preacher Chuck Swindoll, a former Marine himself, wrote this poem, called, “A Nation’s Prayer.”
Almighty God, we pause to reflect on your character as we seek wisdom for such a time as this.
In these unsafe days, you remain all-powerful and able to protect.
In these uncertain times, you remain all-knowing, leading us aright.
In the unprecedented events we’re facing, you remain absolutely sovereign.
Our times are in your hands.
Therefore, our dependence on you is total, not partial . . . our need for your forgiveness is constant . . . our gratitude for your grace is profound . . . out love for you is deep.
We ask that you guard and guide our President and all who serve the people of these United States. May uncompromising integrity mark their lives.
We also ask that you unite us as truly “one nation, under God.” May genuine humility return to our ranks.
And may that blend of integrity and humility heal our land.
In our Lord’s name we pray,
So, as you gather together with friends and family this Memorial Day weekend, barbequing and enjoying your freedom as Americans, be sure to take time to remember and give thanks to God for men like Cpl Charles Palmer and his family.
America will remain free as long as she has men and women willing to defend her against all enemies, and as long as Americans remember the sacrifice made by such heroes who have given their last full measure of devotion in order to keep us a free people.
God – bless them. And God - bless America.