By Thomas Corder,
Chaplain VFW Post 5127
Service to the community and service to veterans have been the guiding principles of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States since its founding in 1899. Sometimes, abiding by those principles can be challenging, but Post 5127 does its best to stand by them.
Members of the VFW seek to ensure that our comrades still living receive the benefits and protections that were promised to them when they made a solemn vow to serve our nation with courage and loyalty during its many times of need. Members also want to ensure that those same comrades receive the deserved and appropriate honors reserved only for them at their hour of death. It matters not whether a veteran is male or female, black or white, Democrat or Republican, Catholic or Protestant, rich or poor; all are entitled to the same respectful treatment when they answer that final roll-call, and Post 5127 works hard to see that they get it.
I recently received a phone call from a lady in Texas who wanted her father to be buried in his native land, McCreary County. Although he had been born here and had visited relatives here on occasion, he had not resided here in many years. Yet, like many McCreary Countians, his wish was to be laid to rest beside his family members “back home,” specifically in Mountain View Cemetery. She, on the other hand, knew little about our county. She had found my number online and was desperate for help.
Time was short and I was busy with other matters, but this obvious call to duty could not be ignored. A few phone calls later and I had enough volunteers from the Post to conduct a minimal service, but I needed more to do justice to this departed veteran. An additional call to our sister veterans’ organization, American Legion Post 115, resulted in some much appreciated assistance.
On July 22, one of the hottest days of the summer, we carpooled from the Post at mid-day and drove up to Mountain View Cemetery. Unlike some veterans’ organizations, our Post conducts memorial ceremonies in full Class A uniform. The uniforms look sharp, but those wool trousers and coats that the Vietnam War era vets wear certainly do get hot, and on that day, hot was a weak word for how we felt. In fact, at one point, I thought I was going to faint from the heat.
Nevertheless, we stood there, in formation, under a blazing sun, paying respect to a man who, in many ways, was a stranger to us. All we knew was that he was a soldier and had served honorably. That was all we needed to know. And, as I stood there with men who had, also, served honorably, I could not help but observe that I was in the company of true heroes, men who would take time out from their personal lives to bid farewell, on a sweltering summer day, to someone they did not know and had never met. From the windswept mountains of Korea and the steaming rice paddies of Vietnam to the killing fields of Afghanistan, these comrades of mine had witnessed the worst that humanity had to offer, yet they, willingly, stood silently, under a broiling sun, paying tribute to another comrade, one they know only from a service record. That is why I wear my cap proudly as a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
Back at the Post, we sipped on bottles of ice water and made some changes in protocol for future funeral details in the summertime. When the temperature rises to 90 degrees, the wool of the Class A uniform will be replaced with the short selves of the Class B uniform. Secondly, we will make sure that the Adjutant reads the short prayer instead of the long one.
Until next time, may God bless you and may God bless the United States of America. When you meet a vet, don’ forget to say Thank you.