Thursday, February 23, 2012

Not Just Another VFW Funeral

I by no means want to sound like we don’t care about every funeral that we participate in as an honor guard. It’s called an honor guard because it honors the deceased person’s service to our country and we as part of the honor guard feel it is an honor for us to say thank you for your service to our country one last time.

The honor guard duty that will be done by my post, Post 20272, Oregon-McFarland-Brooklyn, will be especially meaningful to each of it’s members this Sunday and Monday because it will be for our Post Commander, Steve Lawrence. He was only 65 and his passing was completely unexpected. We will do a VFW Pass & Review Sunday evening at the funeral home and then do our three round volley firing at the gravesite on Monday. His wife will be presented with seven of the 21 shells fired and a commemorative coin representing his service in the Navy, to our country and our VFW Post.

I have only know Steve since I joined this post about a year ago, but he was a true example of someone who was proud of his service and was willing to help fellow vets in any way that he could. He was a past State of Wisconsin VFW Commander and just retired about a month ago as Wisconsin VFW Department Adjutant Quartermaster.

I felt a special camaraderie with him because he was my age, also in the Navy, was a Communications Technician, the same rate as me and also served in Vietnam. Our paths just never crossed until I moved to Oregon about 14 months ago. I did give him a hard time when I found out he was in 22 ½ years and never went to sea and I had only been in four years and clocked 80,000 nautical miles. I did have a lot of respect for him because he spent 18 months “in country” in Vietnam and I was always sitting, fairly safely, a mile off shore on board the Oklahoma City. He joined the Naval Reserve after his active duty where he stayed until he served for a total of 22 ½ years.

I had told him on a number of occasions how welcomed I felt by this post and him compared to other posts I had been in since coming back in 1970. I also told him how much I liked the people of Oregon and my church, St John’s Lutheran. He mentioned that he was a member and planned on becoming more active in church now that he had retired. Three weeks ago and the following week he was sitting in back of me and I was glad to see him there and to be able to share the sign of peace with him. The last time I saw him was on Tuesday, February 14th when our VFW Post presented the colors before the Oregon High School Hockey play off game. I helped him load the flags back into his car, told him to have a good week and that I’d see him latter. I didn’t see him in church this past Sunday, but not everyone goes every Sunday so I didn’t give it a second thought.

He passed away this past Tuesday morning some time before eight of us were doing honor guard for a 92 year old Oregon, WI., vet‘s funeral at our local cemetery. He had not volunteered to be with us that morning and I didn’t find out about his passing until I got a phone call later that evening. Once again this reminds me of my own mortality and that it’s time to get serious about the things I still want to do while I can do them. I always feel bad when it takes something like this to remind me of how precious and short life really is. I know he will be remembered for all of the good things he did for his fellow vets and that would be a great way for anyone to be remembered. Just my usual reminder to thank a vet for their service any time you get the opportunity to do so. I know all vets appreciate hearing those words.