Yesterday I participated in the funeral of a retired veteran who served several years on two different continents. He was known to those who loved him as a patriot.He was a family man, and an avid hunter and fisherman.
Although I work toward peace along different paths, I am moved by the Honor Guard at these services. I have attended only a few such services, but they stand out. Readings by the VFW commander and chaplain, speaking the common language of soldiers who share an experience that the rest of us cannot ever truly know. Taps played on a bugle, the young officers’ careful unfolding and re-folding of the flag and its reverent presentation to a surviving member of the family. Even the sharp retort of rifle shots into the blue sky, startling birds and funeral attendees alike, but marking the moment. There were other, more gentle moments to the service, but this … this echoed to heaven in its way.
It is a long journey to reconcile warfare and a world’s wellbeing. Plenty of veterans and warriors struggle with that reality right alongside civilians. This particular gentleman found solace in long hours in the green woods and rushing waters of the north. He felt close to Creation there; it put him in touch with what he experienced as sacred. As part of the liturgy, we used excerpts of a poem by N. Scott Momaday as a prayer, but I want to offer it here in its entirety. Let this poem speak for itself: