It was a beautiful day. Sunny, a good breeze, no humidity. A day ordered just for us, I think. We'd buried Jon in a blizzard and as we were planning for his birthday on the Labor Day weekend, Hurricane Earl was threatening out in the Atlantic. Just our luck, I thought, we'll have to do his military honors in a hurricane. But our luck, for this day, was good.
We met for breakfast at Jon's home and walked as a group to the cemetery, about 50 of us, I'd guess. I'm sure the neighbors along the way wondered what was up. One lady asked if we were a walking club. Sort of, we agreed. We were walking to be together.
At the cemetery the sign on the gate said "closed." You'll notice that we paid a lot of attention to that. It was a bit of a step for my short legs, but others had no problem at all crossing the chains.
My sister Liz, grandson James and I walked together through the cemetery.
Others waited for us under the spreading sycamore tree that shades Jon's grave. This is an old cemetery, and Jon's "next door" neighbor was a Confederate soldier. Brother-in-law Jay said the blessing, a perfect gift.
The two soldiers from Fort Dietrich who came to provide the ceremony for us were solemn and respectful.
Here they prepare to unfold the flag. I could not help but notice history colliding on this spot, as the black soldier stood at attention beside the grave of Jesse Jabez Stansbury, who served with honor in the Civil War. Time passes, and wounds heal.
The flag was held for a full minute over Jon's grave as each of us said our own silent prayer. Then it was re-folded and presented to his wife.
We sang "Happy Birthday" before we left. Why not? It was his birthday and all of us were there to celebrate his life and remember him. We left, not in sadness, but comforted by having been there together.
Sunlight brightened the flags and flowers as we left.