Saturday, May 2, 2009

Leif's Military Honors Ceremony Conclusion - April 29, 2009 - Bay Pines National Cemetery

The gun salute and playing of "Tap"s actually came before the folding and presentation of the flag, but they seem to me to be the fitting end to the ceremony. When I was a Girl Scout, we used to sing a song to the tune of "Taps" that went like this:

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

There are more verses but that is the only one we sang as we held hands at the end of our meetings, having taken down and folded the American flag. When I sang it as a child, it was a beautiful, comforting song, but now it seems infinitely sad to me. I will never hear it again without thinking of Leif's death and memorial service, or of all the veterans who are laid to rest in our cemeteries for whom "Taps" is played.

At the end of the ceremony, we were a little confused about who was going to take Leif's urn to the niche. Peter W. initially picked it up and started to walk with it, but there was still a bit left of conclusion of the ceremony. The soldiers walked it over to the columarium and gave it to Peter Anthony, who placed it in the niche. That was very hard to see and I don't know if it was hard for him to do. His military bearing was impeccable. Those of us who wanted to touch the box one more time did so, and when we were done, one of the cemetery employees fastened the granite faceplate on the niche. That plate was blank except for a printed strip with Leif's rank and name on it. The engraved plate came several weeks later.

The first plate they put on the niche didn't list Leif's service in Bosnia. We noticed that the other plates listed service in combat zones or war service, so we asked them to add it.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, after the niche had been sealed, we left for the St. Petersburg Unitarian Universalist Church. i knew that my Leif, my lively, handsome son, was not in that box, but only his earthly remains, but it was and is still hard for me to know that I will never see or touch it again. However, unlike some people, I didn't want to keep the urn at home. I didn't think it was a healthy choice, and I wanted him to be in a national cemetery with full military honors. It was the right choice.

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