I just came home from the funeral service for Corporal Michael D. Anderson of Modesto. This Marine was twenty-one years old when he was killed clearing bad guys out of buildings in Fallujah two weeks ago.
To my knowledge, this is the first service member killed in action in the Modesto area. Since I’ve been serving around the globe myself these last two years, I don’t know how true this is. However, if the turn-out for Mike’s funeral is an indication, I’d say this information is correct.
On Saturday, Christmas afternoon, I put on my Navy blue uniform and drove to Salas Funeral Home in Modesto. When I drove into the parking lot, I noticed a news crew interviewing someone out front. I walked inside to meet any family that might be present. I was told the father, Mike Sr., was being interviewed outside. I didn’t have long to wait before he came in. I expressed my condolences and appreciation for his son’s sacrifice and offered to help the family in any way I could. He asked me if I would share some words at the funeral service Monday morning. I was honored.
Driving home I couldn’t help but marvel at the courage of the family. It’s painful enough to have the responsibility of burying your son, but to also have his viewing on Christmas Day and the day after seems unbearable.
This morning I dressed once again in my Navy blues and made the ten-mile drive to Calvary Temple. I met with the pastors who would be officiating, and we made the necessary arrangements to be certain everything was covered. Turned out I would be sharing my remarks just before Pastor Joe Wright gave the message.
From where I sat at the base of the steps leading to the platform, I immediately noticed that the entire ground floor seating was filled. Calvary Temple is a big church. The service had a number of testimonials, scripture, prayer, and a video of Mike. When Pastor Joe had put the amen on his sermon, the people began the slow process of passing by the casket, greeting the family and others who had come to show their respects and honor this fallen Marine. There were, of course, Marines present in their Dress Blue uniform, and several Navy personnel, also in uniform. Units from the Modesto Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Stanislaus County Sheriffs, Modesto Fire Department, members of the Marine Corps Club of Stockton, and a number of other individuals representing a cross-section of military/law enforcement agencies. I was told there were some eighteen-hundred in attendance.
Pastor Joe invited me to ride with him in the funeral procession which would take us through a major part of Modesto before arriving at Lakewood Cemetery. As we drove out of the church parking lot, we followed immediately behind one of the two stretch-limousines carrying the family; I began to realize just how important this service was to our community. The limos were flying American flags from each side of the vehicles. The intersection where the church is located is one of the biggest in Modesto. Fire trucks with lights flashing were positioned in the intersection to block traffic for the funeral procession. As we drove through, the firemen, dressed in their fire-fighting gear, stood in a row and saluted. This took place at every major intersection we were required to pass through. Cars all along the route were pulled to the side of the road on both sides out of respect.
Once we pulled into the cemetery, we were led to the grave site by a riderless horse, with boots turned backwards in the stirrups, indicating a fallen warrior. Despite the cold, rainy conditions, several hundred people came to honor a young man who gave all.
This young man wanted to make a difference in the world. A difference that would last well beyond his earthly years. A difference that would speak volumes about honor, courage, and commitment. A difference that would resonate in the hearts of his family and loved ones down through the ages. By so doing, he leaves a legacy for those of us left behind to emulate.
Twenty years from now, ask an Iraqi about the gift of freedom they were given and there will be a look of awe pass over their face. They will speak in hushed, holy tones, recalling the bravery and courage of Americans who came to liberate them from the ravages of a maniacal dictator. They will pass on to their children and grandchildren the stories of foreigners, strangers, who came to their land to die for them so they could be free.
Standing on the beaches of Normandy in 1984, President Ronald Reagan said, “The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or the next. It was the deep knowledge – and pray God we have not lost it –that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest . . .We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.”
Thank God for Corporal Michael Anderson, U.S. Marine Corps. He can never be forgotten, because he made a difference with his life.
Be proud, America. May God ever grant us such brave hearts to carry on the torch of freedom.
web link: http://www.modbee.com/local/story/9674037p-10558002c.html/.