Salute a Veteran while time is on your side.
October 28, 2015
SOMETIMES, soon is too late.
Sometimes, we don’t get around to soon soon enough.
Sometimes, soon means time has run out.
Sometimes, soon means you have to tell yourself it wasn’t supposed to come to this.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
We were there in the cemetery.
There with the nearby, comforting, sturdy, steadying oak.
There where the white dove had just been released, lifting spirits.
There beneath the soft blue, sun-blessed sky.
There where the men of the military had just smartly, snappily folded the flag that had covered the casket, the flag that had flown over the U. S. Capitol Building, and presented it to the family.
There where the bagpiper had sent forth the soothing, reassuring, steadying sounds of Amazing Grace as surely no other instrument can.
There on Veterans Day.
There at eleven minutes – and in the minutes just before and just after that — after the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Four years ago.
It wasn’t supposed to be that way.
No, on this eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month we were supposed to be having lunch with our second oldest brother.
Lunch with our brother and other siblings and other family members and friends.
There to salute him, honor him for his Army infantry service in the Pacific Theatre in World War II.
The military service he – like so many others from that era now appropriately called the Greatest Generation – did not talk much about.
But which was much a part of him, of them.
The military service he went away to as a kid.
That harshly took him to manhood, the way war can, does.
The service that, as he mentioned a time or two, from which he felt he would not return.
The service which, fortunately, we did get him to talk about – though minimally – in his final months over breakfast at a quiet, small, neighborhood restaurant.
We planned to use this late-gained information to help us prepare a small book that told his wartime story – along with some information obtained from military sources and other family members – to be presented to him at a family luncheon on that Veterans Day.
In recent years, we had thought about, planned to do that.
We had worked on it some.
But not enough.
Then time, events dictated otherwise.
We hurried to complete the book.
But not soon enough for him to receive it.
Soon came too soon.
We knew he was terminally ill.
We didn’t know terminal would come so soon.
Hours before the hoped-for luncheon, he began to slip from us.
Then soon was here.
All too soon he was gone.
So on that Veterans Day, instead of being there to honor him with a family luncheon, we were there to say goodbye to him.
Salute him in the only way we now could.
There in the quietude, the solemnity of the cemetery.
There by the sturdy, steadying oak.
There in the moving moment of the smartly folded flag.
There when the white dove took wing, offering up hope even in that sad, final moment.
There when Amazing Grace amazingly offered us grace.
Soon had caught up with us.
Brought the last tick of the clock.
The final moment of that life.
In days, the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month will be here again.
Then all too soon it too would be gone.
Which hastens the question:
Is there a veteran of any war you would salute, honor?
And quickens the answer: Surely, yes.
If so, salute them now.
Now, before soon ticks by.
That phone call, that letter, that visit over coffee, that luncheon of honor you now and then have meant to get around to, do it now.
Now, while soon still is with you.
Now, before time runs out.
Now, before the oak and the dove and the flag and the bagpiper are there with you.
And the one you would salute, the one you would honor is not.
Roger Summers is a journalist, essayist and author who thanks you for reading. Roger is the author of a book that contains his short stories: The Ladies in the Pink Hats and My Johnny.