In Memoriam – Frances Seay Wilson – Born May 1922, Died August 2014
I want to share with you a personal experience I had last week on the occasion of my 92 year old Mother’s death. It caused me to reflect on her generation and all we owe them.
My Mother died peacefully in her sleep, having had the opportunity to say goodbye to her close friends and family and my father, her husband of 68 years. He asked that she be buried in her Navy uniform. You see she was a Naval officer in World War II responsible for the re-supply of the ships in the Atlantic theater. In that capacity she always knew where my father’s LST was at every moment during the war. He was a Naval officer on an LST responsible for the eight small boats, LCVP’s, that were used in amphibious operations. On the morning of June 6, 1944, he led his eight boats into the beaches of Normandy in the first wave of landings on D-Day and spent the next two weeks ferrying soldiers to the beaches and bringing wounded back to the hospital ships.
I mention the above because at the small graveside ceremony for my mother, in a beautiful cemetery at the foot of Lookout Mountain, there was an Honor Guard from the U.S. Navy consisting of a Lieutenant and a Chief Petty Officer. I wanted them to know my mother and father’s history of service to their country because I wanted them to know the people they were honoring. They appeared genuinely moved and told me it was one of the highest honors they had had to be allowed to serve as the Honor Guard at my Mother’s burial.
After a few brief words from the pastor, the Honor Guard straightened the flag covering my Mother’s casket and then slowly saluted each other. At that point two buglers, one in the trees twenty yards behind the gravesite and one in another copse of trees twenty yards in front of the gravesite began to play Taps. They played the Echo version of Taps which is where the second bugle is a few notes behind the first as if echoing in a canyon. If you can hear it and not have chills run up your spine, you’re not an American.
As the last note of Taps died away, the two Navy men slowly and deliberately folded the flag twelve times so that when finished the stars were on the outside. They then each saluted the flag and the Chief Petty Officer slowly walked over to my Father and knelt down on one knee as he placed the folded flag in my Father’s lap and said the following, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your wife’s honorable and faithful service.” As he said this tears streamed down my father’s face and the Navy CPO began to choke up as he finished and said a few more private words to my Father as tears began to form in his own eyes. He then stood and saluted my Father who returned his salute. Thankfully, most of the mourners were standing behind my Father and couldn’t see what I saw or there wouldn’t have been a dry eye, but I think they realized that something very touching had just taken place.
My Father and Mother belonged to a generation that is quickly passing from the scene. Tom Brokaw called them “The Greatest Generation”, and I truly believe they were. We enjoy the freedom we have because of the sacrifices they made. They returned from the war and proceeded to build a nation the likes of which the world has never seen and we are in the process of squandering the heritage they left us. If you think the term American Exceptionalism is just a meaningless phrase, ask some of the British or French of their generation who owe their very existence to the Americans who fought and died on the battlefields of Europe.
We deserve better than the politicians we have and the entrenched bureaucracy that is stifling entrepreneurship. We are direly in need of leadership and vision. Think about all of this the next time you go to the polls and try vote for the person with the moral fiber to do the right thing regardless of which party he or she represents.