Today I attended the funeral of a very dear family friend who will be greatly missed by family and friends alike.
Hal was quite a character. A little rough around the edges with eyes that reflected a life that had been challenging at times. He had a deep, warm and rich laugh that was infectious, and he never met a stranger.
Always telling the same jokes over and over to anyone who would listen. He was a little ornery and loved to pull pranks. A “gotcha” kind of guy.
He was unpretentious and just about as down to earth as anyone could be – just your basic guy with an average life who just also happened to be a proud Marine in his prime, and gave all he had to his country.
I had never attended a funeral service with Military Honors before today. The backdrop was something scripted out of a movie. It was a chilly, rainy day with dark skies shielded by black umbrellas all lending to the heaviness to this day of sorrow.
I stood riveted as the Honor Guard performed the ceremony of removing the casket from the hearse and carried Hal’s flagged draped coffin into the sanctuary with the dignity and honor reserved for our service men and women, our veterans. The French doors to the left of where the casket was to be placed revealed a lone Guard member standing at the edge of the field at full salute as Hal proceeded on his journey to his final resting place.
The folding of the flag was the definition of “precision” with crisp snaps that echoed in the sanctuary, and when the young man bent to present the folded flag to Hal’s oldest son, it was a moment I won’t forget.
The remaining Guard members formed procession and joined the lone Guard in the field to perform the 3-volley riffle salute. In the sanctuary, one young, proud Marine stood alone at full salute in military dress as Taps was played for the grandfather whose footsteps he had chosen to follow in. The grandfather who was a simple man who did an extraordinary thing to all the lives he touched, and on this day was given the recognition for being a soldier and for a job well done.
Before being dismissed from services, the Pastor read a poem I had not heard before entitled “I Am the Flag” by Ruth Apperson-Rous. This pride, this sentiment written many decades ago represents what I witnessed today in the final salute to Hal Everett.
I am the Flag
by Ruth Apperson Rous
I am the flag of the United States of America.
I was born on June 14, 1777, in Philadelphia.
There the Continental Congress adopted my stars and stripes as the national flag.
My thirteen stripes alternating red and white, with a union of thirteen white stars in a field of blue, represented a new constellation, a new nation dedicated to the personal and religious liberty of mankind.
Today fifty stars signal from my union, one for each of the fifty sovereign states in the greatest constitutional republic the world has ever known.
My colors symbolize the patriotic ideals and spiritual qualities of the citizens of my country.
My red stripes proclaim the fearless courage and integrity of American men and boys and the self-sacrifice and devotion of American mothers and daughters.
My white stripes stand for liberty and equality for all.
My blue is the blue of heaven, loyalty, and faith.
I represent these eternal principles: liberty, justice, and humanity.
I embody American freedom: freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press, and the sanctity of the home.
I typify that indomitable spirit of determination brought to my land by Christopher Columbus and by all my forefathers – the Pilgrims, Puritans, settlers at James town and Plymouth.
I am as old as my nation.
I am a living symbol of my nation’s law: the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.
I voice Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy: “A government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
I stand guard over my nation’s schools, the seedbed of good citizenship and true patriotism.
I am displayed in every schoolroom throughout my nation; every school yard has a flag pole for my
Daily thousands upon thousands of boys and girls pledge their allegiance to me and my country.
I have my own law—Public Law 829, “The Flag Code” – which definitely states my correct use and display for all occasions and situations.
I have my special day, Flag Day. June 14 is set aside to honor my birth.
Americans, I am the sacred emblem of your country. I symbolize your birthright, your heritage of liberty purchased with blood and sorrow.
I am your title deed of freedom, which is yours to enjoy and hold in trust for posterity.
If you fail to keep this sacred trust inviolate, if I am nullified and destroyed, you and your children will become slaves to dictators and despots.
Eternal vigilance is your price of freedom.
As you see me silhouetted against the peaceful skies of my country, remind yourself that I am the flag of your country, that I stand for what you are – no more, no less.
Guard me well, lest your freedom perish from the earth.
Dedicate your lives to those principles for which I stand: “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I was created in freedom. I made my first appearance in a battle for human liberty.
God grant that I may spend eternity in my “land of the free and the home of the brave” and that I shall ever be known as “Old Glory,” the flag of the United States of America.