It was only three days ago that we buried my Dad. It eerily seems longer ago than that. Returning to work on Tuesday morning did return some sense of normalcy to my life.
Dad was entitled by law to military honors at his gravesite by the Marine Corps. We were driven to the cemetery in the funeral limo. As we neared the site I was watching anxiously to see if the military representatives were indeed there. We rounded a bend in the drive and I was relieved to see two Marines standing at ease by the canopy. And it wasn't until I sat down next to Mom in the row of seats at Dad's casket that I noticed the Navy bugler off in the distance ahead of us slightly to our right.
Actually the first thing I did once I exited the limo before taking my seat was head for the two Marines. I didn't expect them to acknowledge me as they stood at ease ready to snap to salute when my Dad's casket would approach from the hearse. And they did not acknowledge me. I am not sure how much they knew about my Dad's military history, but I wanted to make sure they knew who it was they were there to honor.
I strode up to them from their right and never made eye contact with them and they never moved while I said "Gentlemen, I don't know how much you know about my Dad's military service to our country, but I want to make sure you know that my Dad was orphaned at the age of 12, managed to complete high school, then enlisted in the Marines, saw his first action at Iwo Jima at the age of 19, remained in the Pacific Theater until the end of World War II, and then served with our occupation forces in Japan. I cannot adequately express to you how much it means to my family to have you here to honor our Father as you are today."
I was committed to making sure they knew that because I have found in the past when other Marines are speaking with Dad and they find out that he served at Iwo Jima, he is held in such awe by other Marines because there is no more sacred ground to a member of USMC than Iwo Jima. And I wanted those Marines who were there to honor my Dad to also feel honored to perform the ceremony for a veteran of Iwo Jima and to know how much we appreciated their efforts to be there.
Following the religious part of the ceremony, the military ceremony began with the playing of Taps followed by the folding and presentation of the US flag to my Mother. I was seated to my Mother's left and one brother to her right. Unknown to me another brother recorded the entire ceremony and put in on YouTube. Here is a shortened version of the military honors.
The Navy bugler and the Marines were flawless in the performance of their duties including the words spoken to my Mother as she was presented the US flag that draped Dad's coffin.
"On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps."