The Final Inspection

Drill_instructor_at_the_Officer_Candidate_School

Gunnery Sgt. Shawn D. Angell is a drill instructor at the Officer Candidate School aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., dedicated to training, educating, evaluating and screening the many candidates who go through the course and turning them into Marine leaders.

By Sgt. Joshua Helterbran

The Final Inspection

The soldier stood and faced his God
Which must always come to pass
He hoped his shoes were shining
Just as brightly as his brass

“Step foward now you soldier,
How shall I deal with you?
Have you always turned the other cheek,
And to my church have you been true?”

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
“No Lord, I guess I ain’t,
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can’t always be saints

“I’ve had to work most Sundays
And at times my talk was tough
And sometimes I’ve been violent
Because the streets were awfully rough”

But I never took a penny,
That was’nt mine to keep
Though I worked a lot of overtime
When the bills just got to steep,

And I never passed a cry for help
Although, at times I shook with fear
And sometimes, God forgive
I’ve wept unmanly tears

I know I don’t deserve a place
Among the people here
That never wanted me around
Except to calm there fears

If you have a place for me here O’ Lord
It needn’t be so grand
I’ve never expected, or had so much
But if you don’t I’ll understand”

There was a silence all around the throne
Where the Saints had often trod
As this soldier waited quietly
For the judgment from his God

“Step foward now you soldier,
You’ve borne your
burdens well
Walk peacefully on Heaven’s streets,
You’ve done your time in Hell”

Memories of Memorial Day

DSCN2894

When I was a ten, my parents visited the cemetery almost weekly. Their mission was to decorate my oldest brother Joe’s grave. Joe died when he was seven years old. The last Sunday in May was always special because it was so hard to get into the cemetery.  World War Two had ended just a few years earlier, and Saint Mary’s in Evergreen Park celebrated like most Catholic Cemeteries did, they had an outdoor mass. Most times Dad had to park outside the cemetery, and we had to walk to my brother’s grave. The place crawled with VFW and American Legion Honor Guards dressed in the uniforms of their service, Navy, Army, Marines, etc. Gun shots were heard for miles away, as each post honored its member at the gravesite with a seven-gun salute.

Mom and Dad never called this holiday Memorial Day, It was always Decoration Day. It was the day when people who had loved ones at Saint Mary’s came to clean off the winter grave blankets and to replace it with live flowers. Mom spent a few minutes at the local nursery studying the floral grave designs, picked one, and bought the plants. It just occurred to me that she never had a blue print for the design, but always planted the flowers exactly as she remembered them at the nursery display. It was my job to run back and forth with a watering can to get water for the new plants.The funny thing is that in her later years she couldn’t remember my name or who I was; time does that to us.

After Mom finished Joe’s grave she went to my Aunt’s next. Dad and Mom knelt at each grave they visited and said a prayer of remembrance

Decoration Day was always sunny and warm, usually one of the first good days of Spring. It made spending a day honoring the dead a sorrowful, but joyous occasion. By the time we left it was near lunch. Dad drove us home in the big Buick, and Mom made lunch. The rest of the day caught us lazing around on a full stomach watching the grass grow.

Decoration Day Remembered

Mom and Dad called it Decoration Day. As a kid I never missed a single Decoration Day at the cemetery. It was really Memorial Day, but Julie and Joe called it Decoration Day.  We never went there to honor a veteran or someone who died in the war, we went to decorate the grave of my oldest brother, Joe. Joe succumbed to scarlet fever back when that was a terrible disease. Today, people don’t even know what scarlet fever is. The fever took my brother at age seven and changed my mother’s life forever.

We always had trouble getting into the cemetery on Memorial Day. What, with a public outdoor Mass, the VFW, and American Legion honoring  veterans with gun salutes there were crowds of families remembering their fallen.

My sister, brother, and I were kids then, but the tributes left a lasting impression which has not left my memory since. Today, my cousin Sharon sent me this beautiful video tribute honoring our warrior veterans. This is no doubt the best and most honorable video I have ever watched.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lq2BbVZ2LEc

2013 Memorial Day Tribute

Not a Grass Farm Anymore

Grumpa Joe Looks at FlowerSo many things to write about so little time or desire to do it. Memorial Day was spent quietly. A walk in the early hours, followed by breakfast then a trip to the Breidert Green for the VFW Program. I’ve lived in Frankfort for seventeen years, but this is the first Memorial Day Service I attended. I was drawn to the program to hear my two beautiful grand daughters play in the band. The flag was lowered to half mast followed by the invocation. The Hickory Creek Tiger Band played three numbers, The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, and a third number that I don’t recall. The mayor read the names of all known service people currently serving. After, a Veteran read the names of all the deceased vets from Frankfort. The VFW color guard gave a twenty-one gun salute. Three members of the Tiger Band trumpet section played taps in echo fashion. It brought tears to my eyes. Even though I avoided serving, I grew up with WW-II, Korea, Vietnam, and now Iraq. In between those there was the Bay of Pigs, Lebanon, Grenada, and some that I’m sure I have forgotten.

I drove the girls home and chastised my son for not being at the service. He was busy painting his garage door.  

The rest of the afternoon, I spent trying to barbeque some chicken breasts. I say tried, because I ran out of gas on my grill. I had to use a roaster oven to finish. Thank God I paid the electric bill. Peggy and I ate a late lunch. We cleaned up then sat on the patio.  We listened to the sound of the waterfall. A pair of mallards waddled through the yard trying to find a path around us to the bird seed. Finally, we went in to let them enjoy the seed. I’m hoping they are in a family way and will bring their young to the pond. Wouldn’t that be a joy!

This evening, I re-boxed some golf balls for shipment to Iraq. After that I took a baby step to sort through Barb’s favorite poetry and prayers for the legacy scrapbook I am assembling. Another baby step went toward getting my bike ready for the road. In years past, I would have had fifteen hundred miles logged by now. This year I’m struggling to get started. I figure a baby step toward making the bike ready will get me to take the next step, i.e. bring it up from the basement.

Wow its warm. It is our first warm day, and I have every window open and all the fans running to stay cool. Even this laptop is adding heat to my discomfort.

Tomorrow, I will bring the bike up after breakfast. In the afternoon we will shop for more flowers. With all of the trees, shrubs, and perennials we planted around the pond last week, the yard is beginning to look like a real garden again. Goodbye grass farm.

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