A few “Thoughts” ago, there was a tribute to those who through the scores of years have been willing to lay their lives on the line in the interest of ridding the world of tyranny and preserving the way of freedom. One need only to be just cursorily aware of the conditions under which most of the people of the world live in order to appreciate both the freedom and the lifestyle maintained in this country primarily by its military strength and the will of its people to support it. In a most profound way, notwithstanding the statements of the fainthearted to the contrary, peace is the absence of war, and the absence of war on these shores is guaranteed by those who keep it at bay through their willingness to make the sacrifices inherent in peace-keeping.
Unfortunately, peacekeeping sometimes means disturbing the peace. Disturbing the peace means inevitably that lives will be lost as brave warriors “lay it all on the line”…and lose it. In this season, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice are honored, and rightly so. The tragedy, however, does not end on the battlefield. No…it reaches into the homes and the families of those left behind when one makes that ultimate sacrifice. The playing of “Taps” at the grave of a fallen warrior denotes the ending of a life in the service of the country, but in a real sense those plaintive notes signal the beginning of heartache for those who are reminded daily of the empty chair, the times around the table, the singing of the hymns, the everyday things of life no longer shared with that special someone.
Journey’s end down this winding road
Through bright-hued flowers of spring;
Journey’s end at this last abode -
Tolling bells!...Hear their ring?
This journey...one of paradox,
So brief...and yet, so long -
One day, young life; the next, the box;
A half-world back…yes, long.
How strange in nature’s blooming lea
To hear the marching feet,
And see the grey-faced coterie
In ranks so grimly neat.
And, closer stepping, I can hear
The words from Holy Writ;
The final prayer wafts past the bier,
But death cannot acquit.
And now the flag, from coffin shorn
And folded neatly so,
Is to the mourning widow borne -
The emblem of her woe.
Then under placid, bright-blue sky
The sergeant snaps commands;
The soldiers raise their rifles high
And fire with white-gloved hands.
As gunshot echoes die away
The bugler stands erect...
The final Taps portends decay...
Now it is done. The bells still ring.
The mourners go their way.
The cool, fresh earth of early spring
Becomes the end of day.
And as the wife and children cry,
They feel the emptiness;
And ask the age-old question...why?