I had the unexpected Honor and the Privilege rendering honors to those who as Abraham Lincoln had so eloquently said in the Gettysburg Address “they gave the last full measure of devotion”
My family and I travel to Bastogne to visit parts of this very large battlefield. On the way home we stopped at the Luxembourg American Cemetery, located in Hamm, Luxembourg. The remains of 5000 plus American are interred along with markers for 371 missing in action and 101 unknowns. Among the dead are 22 sets of brothers who died in the Battle of the Bulge.
We have made it a family mission to visit as many of the American Cemeteries in Europe as possible while we are deployed in Europe. The first thing that hits you is the sight of the number of white stones crosses that spread out before you, it is sobering. I get this feeling/sensation at everyone of the military cemeteries that I have had the honor and privilege of visiting, some more so than others, but there is always a feeling that some part of their spirit is there.
My son has asked why do we come here? I tell that we are there to honor these men and women. That we are there as proxies for their loved ones who are unable to come and remember them. I ask him to just pick one headstone and remember that individuals name so that for now this individual will not be lost to time. I suspect that he is sure that from time to time that I have lost my mind.
As we were walk through the site, I noticed that one of the cemetery’s staff member had taken down the Stars and Stripes by herself, and I asked if she would like some help with folding the Flag, she responded in the affirmative.
It has been at least 30 years since I was on a color guard detail, but it is a very funny feeling that after all of the years, the hours of drills came back, a little rusty, but the knowledge was there. My two task masters; Sargent Major Stewart and Master Sargent Howard were very possibly looking down at me with a smile. It was these two departed gentlemen who had significant parts in my journey from childhood to adulthood.
It was not until almost the end of folding the Flag that I looked into the eyes of the staff member, and the way that she was looking at me that caused me to start to lose my composure. It was a look that was a cross between wonder, compassion, pride and joy; it was then that the magnitude of what I just done and who was watching hit me.
I never thought in my life that this simple act of folding the Stars and Stripes would have this type of emotional effect on me, all of the times in the past had never elicited this effect but off course I had never done this act on Hallowed Ground, with 5000 plus spirits watching. It took me several minutes to gather my composure and get ready for the drive home.
So what I am asking is that if you travel to a foreign country and there is an American Military Cemetery located in that country, take sometime to visit the departed who have given " the last full measure of devotion” all it will cost you is just some time.