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Sometimes things go wrong

Fri, Mar 23rd, 2001
Posted in

Monday, March 26, 2001

Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was discharged from The Army of the United States, I joined a certain veterans organization. In the course of events, we formed a Funeral Escort in order to provide full military honors for our departed comrades. Because of my experience and former rank in The Army of The United States, I had been promoted to Private First Class three times in the two years that I served on active duty and, in all modesty, I must admit that there arent many who can top that.

There were twenty men in our formation including: Color Guard, Firing Squad, Bugler, Pall Bearers and myself as Commander. We outfitted ourselves with Uniforms, Flags, Rifles and a Bugle. We met twice a week for a drill in which we practiced close order drill, the firing of our rifles and the rendition of Taps. After hours of drill, we felt ourselves ready for duty. We were ready but no one else was, there was a definite lack of eligible funerals.

In order to keep our unit together and keep active, we took part in civic events such as raising the flag at our local baseball games, leading the Fourth of July Parade and appearing at the half-time ceremonies at the high school homecoming game. Everywhere we appeared, people would remark about our smartness and how sharp we were. We knew that we were good but there was a certain feeling of inadequacy. We just werent doing what we had trained for. We felt like a squad of paratroopers that had a lot of parachutes but no airplane.

Finally, at long last, our services were requested for a funeral. We were told that there would be no service at a church or mortuary but we were instructed to go to a certain ceremony located just across the Iowa boarder. Just before boarding our bus, I held an inspection of the troops. Everything was spotless: the men, uniforms, rifles and the bugle were a sight to behold. At long last we were going into action.

We were just a bit late in arriving at the ceremony due to a poor choice at a fork in the road but we quickly assumed our position at the grave site. There were very few mourners and I noticed that the funeral director appeared to be nervous and a bit upset but we were not. When the minister finished, I stepped forward and delivered a few well rehearsed remarks. I then gave the command and the firing squad fired three perfect volleys and the bugler sounded Taps that stirred our most deeply held emotions. It had been a perfect graveside service. It had been a perfect funeral in every sense, except for the fact that was revealed to us by that nervous funeral director, we were at the wrong cemetery. Well, someone at that cemetery got buried with full military honors while someone in another cemetery did not.

John Flaherty

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