We went by funeral procession from the church to cemetery which was about 7 miles away. Walking across the grave yard the Marine guard was standing in the corner of the shelter belt waiting. How long they had been there I do not know. They get their orders out of Quantico. Military Funeral Honors is the ceremonial paying of respect and the final demonstration of the country’s gratitude to those who, in times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our nation. The Military Funeral Honors ceremony consists of, at a minimum, the folding and presentation of the American flag and the sounding of Taps by a detail of two uniformed members, in addition to a bugler, if available, of the Armed Forces.
They came to the Flag draped coffin, lifted the Flag and held it taunt while I intoned the “at the cemetery” portion of the “Burial of the Dead”. “We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away…… ” The prairie wind was picking up and even though we were in the shelter belt the flag was catching the breeze and the gloved hands of the Marines were holding on. I know the tenacity of the Marines and the toughness of the man that we are burying and the admiration I have for those who stand watch and guard the ramparts of our Nation. I spoke a bit faster imagining the pressure of the wind and thinking how hard it is to hold your arms outstretched even with no weight and holding no flag. “I know that my Redeemer lives and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth and even though the skin worms destroy this body yet in my flesh I shall see God whom my eyes shall behold and not another”. Still holding on, breeze still blowing. “May God the Father who created this body; may God the Son who redeemed this body together with the soul; may God the Holy Spirit who made this body His temple……..” The Flag is folded with solemn precision, presented to the widow and the Honor guard fires the salute and I flinch even though I know it is coming. The flat reports of the rifles echo off the church across the yard and the birds break from the trees.
The guard retrieves their brass and I help. As always there is always one that disappears in the prairie grass. I walk beack to the vehicle to go home. As I get in the passenger seat I take a look back. They are still there in the corner of the shelter belt as the family begins to leave.