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The Last Full Measure Of Devotion


When I was a chaplain at the Presidio of San Francisco, I often performed services for vets. The two hundred thirty year old cemetery had been closed for lack of room for full body burials and then decided to allow cremations. I performed the very first one.

The saddest services to me were often those with nobody in attendance but me, the military honor guard, and the bugler.

Most were WW ll vets whose families lived far away or on more than one occasion an indigent, homeless vet whose life had taken a wrong turn. What brought them to that point, I did not know. Probably any safety net they'd ever had, i. e., family, friends, adinfinitum, was gone. They'd been given too many chances by the families and for whatever reasons, the wrong turns became more the rule than the exception. I did not know but here we were--they were alone.

The Northeast part of the San Francisco National Cemetery occupied a developers dream overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

The ceremony this particular day was a very sad one. The son of an active duty Colonel was killed in an auto accident. The only child.

I was reminded of what my wonderful seminary professor, Dr. W. W. Boyce, would constantly say to us about grief: "Sometimes there is a sadness which is so great that you simply don't know what to say."

I feel this about Iraq and Afghsnistan on Memorial Day. I just hope my sadness is shared by most in our nation. I doubt it: amost 4900 in the Iraq Warand over 3500 killed in Afghanistan.

I've done my own little unscientific survey and have come to believe that most hardly know that our soldiers are still fighting in those countries. What I always think of when I think of young soldiers who died is that they never got a chance to live out their lives. We could say that of any youngster dying, obviously, but war is especially heinous I think.

There's an immeasurable cost of war that is mostly in the waste of human life.

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