For Whom The Bells Toll

Below is the write up (I don’t know by whom) as received by me in my email forwards and I thought of sharing it.

(( This is dedicated to ALL the Politicians , Bureaucrats and those Citizens of India who Do NOT have any of their family Members in the Armed Forces of India ~~~ in other words, to all those who have NEITHER contributed to NOR earned the freedom that they are enjoying !! ))

***** I continue to wonder, if this sort of spirit and behaviour, which is a part of American as well as the World Culture and National Character, will ever become that of our country.*****

———————————————————-

The Cemetery Watchman

My friend Kevin and I are volunteers at a National cemetery in Oklahoma and put in a few days a month in a ‘slightly larger’ uniform.

Today had been a long, long day and I just wanted to get the day over with and go down to Smokey’s and have a cold beer.

Sneaking a look at my watch, I saw the time, 16:55. Five minutes more to go before the cemetery gates are closed for the day. Full day was hot in the August, and Oklahoma summertime was as bad as ever–the heat and humidity at the same level — both too high.

Suddenly, I saw a car pull into the drive thru the ” In ” gate, a ’69 or ’70 model Cadillac Deville, which looked factory-new. It pulled into the parking lot at a snail’s pace..

An old and very frail woman got out so slow I thought she was paralyzed; she had a cane and a sheaf of flowers — about four or five bunches as best I could tell.

I couldn’t help myself. The thought came unwanted, and left a slightly bitter taste: ‘She’s going to spend an hour, and for the old soldier that I am, my hip hurts like hell and I’m just dying to get out of here right now!’

But for this day and time, my duty was to assist anyone coming in. If only this old Lady leaves without much fuss, we might make it to Smokey’s in time.

I broke my ill-thoughts, and moved towards the Lady.

I must have made a real military sight : A 55 year old middle-aged man with a small pot gut and half a limp, in marine full-dress uniform, which had lost its razor crease about thirty minutes after I began the watch at the cemetery in the morning.

I stopped in front of her, halfway up the walk. She looked up at me with an old woman’s squint.

‘Ma’am, may I assist you in any way?’

She took long enough to answer.

‘Yes, son. Can you carry these flowers? I seem to be moving a tad slow these days.’

‘My pleasure, ma’am..’ (Well, it wasn’t too much of a lie.)

She looked again ‘Marine, where were you stationed?’

‘Vietnam, ma’am.. Ground-pounder. ’69 to ’71.’

She looked at me closer, and peered at my medals .. ‘Wounded in action, I see. Well done, Marine. I’ll be as quick as I can.’

I lied a little bigger: ‘No hurry, ma’am.’

She smiled and winked at me. ‘Son, I’m 85-years-old and I can tell a lie from a long way off.. Let’s get this done. Might be the last time I can do this. My name’s Joanne Wieserman, and I’ve a few Marines I’d like to see one more time..’

‘Yes, ma’am. At your service.’

She headed for the World War I section, stopping at a stone. She picked one of the flower bunches out of my arm and laid it on top of the stone. She murmured something I couldn’t quite make out. The name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC: France 1918.

She turned away and made a straight line for the World War II section, stopping at one stone. I saw a tear slowly tracking its way down her cheek. She put a bunch on a stone; the name was Stephen X. Davidson, USMC, 1943.

She went up the row a ways and laid another bunch on a stone, Stanley J. Wieserman, USMC, 1944..

She paused for a second and more tears flowed. ‘Two more, son, and we’ll be done’

I almost didn’t say anything, but, ‘Yes, ma’am. Take your time.’

She looked confused.. ‘Where’s the Vietnam section, son? I seem to have lost my way.’

I pointed with my chin. ‘That way, ma’am.’

‘Oh!’ she chuckled quietly. ‘Son, me and old age ain’t too friendly.’

She headed down the walk I’d pointed at. She stopped at a couple of stones before she found the ones she wanted. She placed a bunch on Larry Wieserman, USMC, 1968, and the last on Darrel Wieserman, USMC, 1970.

She stood there and murmured a few words I still couldn’t make out and more tears flowed.

‘OK, son, I’m finished. Get me back to my car and you can go home.’

Yes, ma’am. If I may ask, were those your kinfolk?’

She paused. ‘Yes, Donald Davidson was my father, Stephen was my uncle, Stanley was my husband, Larry and Darrel were our sons. All killed in action, all Marines.’

She stopped talking. Whether she had finished, or couldn’t finish, I don’t know. She made her way to her car, slowly and painfully.

I waited for a polite distance to come between us and then double-timed it over to Kevin, who waiting by the car, for us to lock up & leave.

‘Get to the ‘Out’ gate quick.. I have something I’ve got to do.’

Kevin started to say something, but saw the look I gave him. We beat her She hadn’t made it around to the ” Out ” gate as yet.

‘Kevin, stand at perfect Attention next to the gatepost. Follow my lead.’ I stood ram-rod straight next to Kevin, and so did he.

When the Cadillac came puttering around from the hedges and began the short straight traverse to the gate, I called in my best Gunner’s voice: ” ATehenShun – Present Aaarms ! “

I have to hand it to Kevin; he never blinked an eye —- gave a full throttled crispy attention and a Salute that would have made even a serving Marine proud.

She drove through that gate with two old worn-out soldiers giving her a send-off she deserved, ~~~ for service rendered to her country, and for knowing duty, honor and sacrifice far beyond the realm of most.

I am not sure, but I think I saw a salute returned from that Cadillac.

Well, we never went to the pub that evening.

As a final thought on my part, let me share our National prayer:

“” O God, please keep our servicemen and women safe, whether they serve at home or overseas, now or earlier. Hold them in your loving hands and protect them AS THEY PROTECT US. Give us strength to keep them in our thoughts – THEY are the reason for the many freedoms that we enjoy – THEY paid for it. “”

If we ever forget that we’re one nation under obligation to our Brave Armed Forces, then we will be a Nation doomed.

Amen !

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About Shiv Rana

A veteran of the Indian Army.
This entry was posted in Brother -in Arms, National Concerns and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to For Whom The Bells Toll

  1. BS Thapliyal says:

    Wish we Indians had an iota of respect that Americans, Europeans or Japanese have for their soldiers. Perhaps because we don’t value human life at all.

  2. Pervez M Bhagat says:

    I could not complete reading this anecdote without tears. Hats of to Indian Army and all armies whose soldiers give their lives for us to live in peace.
    Pervez bhagat

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