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SUMMERTIME IS PEACH TIME

June 24, 2017

Last week Clare and I purchased the first peaches of the season. The peaches were June Gold, a cling variety grown in Spartanburg County. Sun-kissed peaches are delicious and nutritious, good tasting and good for you. A tree-ripened peach is soul food.

The first bite of the first peach tastes exactly the way summertime is supposed to taste, sweet and flavorful with peach juice running down your chin. In my case, a double chin with a beard.

The peach is the state fruit of South Carolina and Georgia. Georgia is home to baseball player Ty Cobb, nicknamed the Georgia Peach. Though Georgia is known as the Peach State, South Carolina produces more peaches than any other Southern state. No matter which corner of the Palmetto State you visit, you’ll find roadside stands selling peaches in summer.

Travel across the Upstate, and you’ll see green hills covered with peach orchards. Abbott Farms, Belue Farms, Cash Farms, Cooley Farms, Cotton Hope Peach Farm, Fisher Orchards, Hood Farms, Gramling Farms, Lemmons Farms, McDowell Farms, Peach Country, Perdeaux Fruit Farm, and Ragan Orchards all suffered from a mid-March frost this year. Usually a dip in the thermometer to a few degrees below freezing will serve to thin the crop. However, in 2017, following several weeks of warmer than normal weather, the temperature plunged to nineteen degrees. I spoke with James Cooley on Wednesday about this year’s harvest. He reports that the extent of the damage to the peach crop is unknown, but he does expect to have plenty of peaches.

Peach cobbler, peach pie, and peach ice cream will abound!

The South Carolina Peach Festival will be held in Cherokee County July 7 – July 22, 2017. From an inauspicious weekend event in 1977 to this year’s fortieth anniversary extravaganza, the Peach Festival has become the premier summer event in the Upstate.

The Festival first gained national attention in 1978 when volunteers prepared the World’s Largest Peach Pie.

In 1981, the largest of all peaches was unveiled. A one million-gallon water tank, The Peachoid, is located along Interstate 85. It serves as the gateway to the town of Gaffney.

In 1989, the South Carolina Peach Festival broke the Guinness world record for having the most guitarists playing and vocalists singing the same song, “Louie, Louie.” The event was broadcast on national television.

This two-week-long event salutes the peach industry with concerts, sporting events, a parade, truck and tractor pulls, and delicious peach desserts.

At Cooley Springs on Highway 11, travelers find a favorite stopping place. Strawberry Hill features not only ripe red berries in spring, but also blushing peaches in summer. The restaurant serves a hearty breakfast, a delicious lunch, and hand-dipped ice cream. The stylized peach shed features fresh produce most of the year.

James Cooley is a third-generation peach farmer. He won recognition in 2013 as the South Carolina Farmer of the Year and went on to be awarded the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year in October of 2013. Cooley has an establishment that is the epitome of Southern hospitality. Visitors are greeted as if they were friends and neighbors. While members of the Cooley clan and other employees wait on retail customers, James will probably be on his forklift, loading pallets of peaches on tractor trailers headed for markets across the southeast.

Along with cherries, plums, and apricots, peaches are stone fruits. The fuzzy fruit comes in many varieties of either yellow or white flesh. My favorite varieties are the yellow freestones, O’Henry and Monroe, and the white Georgia Belle.

The nectarine, a non-fuzzy cousin, is also a southern favorite. Clare prefers the Spartanburg County-grown yellow nectarines.

The scientific name persica, along with the word peach, derives from an early European belief that peaches were native to Persia. The consensus now is that they originated in China, and were introduced to Persia and the Mediterranean region along the Silk Road. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese documents as far back as the tenth century B.C. They were a favored fruit of the emperors.

The peach was brought to America by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. In Queen Victoria’s day, many a meal was made complete with a fresh peach presented in a cotton napkin.

Although Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, United States farmers did not begin commercial production until the nineteenth century.

Today, peaches are second only to apples as the largest commercial fruit crop in the States.

I grew up enjoying Upstate peaches. My mother-in-law made peach jam that was the perfect companion to her melt-in-your-mouth biscuits. My grandmother and my mother made the best peach cobbler in the world. Though their original recipe probably was slightly different, the one below is close.

 

PEACH COBBLER

INGREDIENTS

8 fresh peaches – peeled, pitted, and sliced into thin wedges

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into small pieces

1/4 cup boiling water

 

MIX TOGETHER:

3 tablespoons white sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.

Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of batter mixture over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serve this peach cobbler warm with vanilla ice cream.

I’ll make you a promise. If you eat enough of this peach cobbler, you, too, can have peach juice running down your own double chin.

A WEDDING ANNIVERSARY ON FATHERS’ DAY

June 17, 2017

This year, two important days fall on the same calendar date. On Sunday June 18, 2017, Clare and I will celebrate our fifty-first wedding anniversary. Sunday is also Father’s Day. Maybe this particular convergence of days has happened before. I just don’t recall ever celebrating these two days together.

For me this was a poignant reminder of the connection between two important roles. Being a husband and being a father are closely connected in more ways than the most obvious one. Clare and I love each other. Our love has deepened over these fifty-one years. Our five children and thirteen grandchildren are the happy blessings of our long-term marriage.

When I met Clare I was smitten. It was love at first sight. We were attracted to each other initially and soon became best friends. That friendship has grown as our respect, devotion, and affection for each other has matured. The home we have created, the garden we have cultivated, and the memories we have made all increase the strength of our bond.

The role of husband and father blend in such a way that now our grandchildren notice.

Recently, one of them asked me, “Papa Kirk, is Mama Clare your girlfriend?”

“Yes, “I said. She has been my girlfriend for a long time. She is my very best friend.”

“That’s a good thing because you are so old you probably couldn’t get a girlfriend now.”

“I am old,” I replied. “I have the one girlfriend that is special to me.”

I could almost see the wheels turning inside that child’s head. After all these years, what Clare and I have been able to do, only by the grace of the good Lord, is provide an example of strength and stability, love and commitment to those who follow. We are grateful every day for that gift.

This combination of roles is illustrated in two rather improbable stories.  I don’t recall where I first heard these stories, but I do know that Paul Harvey told both of them. I have received them several times by e-mail; always told together.

The first story tells of a young Chicago attorney named Edward who became connected with the crime boss Al Capone in 1927.  The two were first involved in the illegal sport of dog racing.  The lawyer became one of Capone’s favorite colleagues and represented members of the Capone mob for crimes including murder, gambling, and prostitution. Known within the mob as Easy Eddie, Edward’s shrewd legal mind enabled him to rig trials, bribe juries, and pay off law enforcement officers. This skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone always handsomely rewarded Easy Eddie.

Apart from his life of crime, Easy Eddie doted on his family. He loved his wife. His three children – a son and two daughters – were his delight.  At some point, Easy Eddie decided that he owed his children more than just the material and financial advantages that came from his life of crime.  He wanted to provide for them a good education. Despite his own involvement with organized crime, Eddie and his wife tried to teach his children right from wrong. He realized that he could not provide them with a good example and a name of which they could be proud.

Wanting to give his children an example of integrity, Edward made a difficult decision.  In an attempt to rectify the wrongs he had done, he became a witness for the prosecution and testified against Al Capone and other members of the mob.  As a result, Capone was sentenced to eleven years in prison on charges of income tax evasion.

On November 8, 1939, while driving in the Cicero section of Chicago, Eddie was gunned down when a mobster pulled up beside him and opened fire with a machine gun.  Eddie died instantly. It is a sad ending to the story of a family man who tried to set things right.

The second story involves a graduate of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  When the United States entered World War II, this twenty-eight year old lieutenant became a pilot and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, deployed in the South Pacific.  Known to his colleagues as Butch, this pilot of a single-engine fighter plane and his entire squadron were sent on a mission February 20, 1942.

Once airborne, Butch looked at his fuel gauge and realized that the crew on the aircraft carrier had neglected to fill his tank.  His commander ordered him to return to the carrier, accompanied by a wingman.  Reluctantly, Butch dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As the two planes made their way back to the carrier, they saw a squadron of Japanese bombers flying toward the Lexington.  The enemy was only about four minutes away from their intended target.  Butch and his wingman decided to attack, but the guns on the second plane had jammed.  Butch, his fighter plane low on fuel, was the only defense between the Japanese bombers and the more than 2,000 men who remained on board the USS Lexington.

The daring pilot flew at the enemy.  Wing-mounted 50-caliber guns blazed as he charged, attacking one surprised Japanese bomber and then another. He flew underneath one plane, blasting its fuel tanks and causing it to explode.  Peeling off, he attacked another from above.

Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

In a matter of minutes, he had destroyed five of the nine bombers.  Pilots aboard the Lexington who were able to take off after Butch first engaged the bombers shot down three more.  The ninth Japanese plane crashed at sea.

Butch flew his damaged fighter back to the carrier. Film from the gun camera, which was mounted on his plane, told the tale of his heroic action.

The lieutenant became the Navy’s first ace pilot of World War II.  He was promoted to lieutenant commander and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered to him a personal commendation.

One year later in another air fight, this courageous pilot died when his plane was shot down by enemy fire.

Revered in his hometown of Chicago, Butch O’Hare is remembered as a hero.  O’Hare International Airport is named for him. Butch’s memorial is located between Terminals 1 and 2. There you can find a statue of the courageous pilot and a display of his Medal of Honor.

So, how are these two stories connected?

Butch O’Hare was Easy Eddie’s beloved son. Edward O’Hare would have been proud of his son and his good name.

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

A good name is one of the most important gifts any father can give to his children.

THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

June 12, 2017

Today is the birthday of Annelies Marie Frank, born 12 June 1929.

Anne Frank became a Jewish victim of the Holocaust. She gained fame posthumously following the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, in which she documents her life in hiding from 1942 to 1944, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. Anne’s diary is one of the world’s most widely known books and has been the basis for several plays and films.

For her thirteenth birthday on 12 June 1942, Anne received a book she had shown her father in a shop window a few days earlier. Although it was an autograph book, bound with red-and-white checkered cloth and with a small lock on the front, Anne decided she would use it as a diary, and she began writing in it almost immediately. In her entry dated 20 June 1942, she lists many of the restrictions placed upon the lives of the Dutch Jewish population.

Here are a few quotes from her diary.

“I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

“Whoever is happy will make others happy too.”

THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

June 11, 2017

Clare and I recently purchased a new flag to display on the front of our home. For years we have proudly hung the flag that draped the casket of Clare’s father, Mr. Jack, Jackson S. Long. Mr. Jack served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.  His honor flag was presented to Clare at his funeral.

Over time the old flag that served us well for so many years became worn and faded. Made of cotton, the flag could not last forever.

The new flag is fashioned from heavy synthetic material purported to be more durable than the old cotton banner. We hung it on our front porch just before Memorial Day and will display it there until Labor Day. In the near future we will invite a local Boy Scout troop to help us properly retire the former flag.

Our grandchildren have been keenly interested in the new flag. They enjoy rubbing the shiny surface and watching it blow in the wind. Some of the older children have taken an interest in the history of the flag. Perhaps this brief refresher will help all of us appreciate the history of our flag.

June 14 is celebrated in the United States as National Flag Day. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on that date in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day; in August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress. While Flag Day is not an official federal holiday, many Americans mark the day as our family does by displaying the flag. As Flag Day approaches on June 14, these reminders may help us pause and give the flag the honor it deserves.

The early flags of the United States of America were all hand sewn. Each flag has a unique history. For Flag Day, allow me to repeat some of those best-known stories.

The Stars and Stripes

Legend holds that George Washington visited Betsy Ross on July 4, 1776, and commissioned her to make the first American flag. Elizabeth Griscom was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She married John Ross in 1773. The couple began an upholstery business together, drawing on her needlework skills.

John Ross was killed in January 1776 on militia duty. Betsy married an American sailor who died as a prisoner of war. Then she married a soldier who died from the wounds of war. Betsy was three times the widow of patriots.  She continued the upholstery business, supporting and rearing her seven daughters.

The story of Betsy Ross’ commission to make the first American flag, as told by her grandson, was first published in Harper’s Monthly in 1873.  The account received wide acceptance. By the 1880s, many school textbooks included the story.

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress passed the Flag Resolution, establishing the standard for flags of the United States. The wording of that document describes the Stars and Stripes: “Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Tradition says that Betsy Ross made the flag, using fabric from a white petticoat, a red shirt, and a blue coat. The colors held symbolic significance – white for purity, red for valor, and blue for loyalty. The stars were placed in a circle to show equality among the original states.

The American flag was lightly regarded during the early years of the nation. Long before it flew on the moon or fluttered over the White House; long before it reached the North Pole or the summit of Mount Everest; long before it was hoisted by Marines at Iwo Jima, folded by an honor guard into a triangle at Arlington National Cemetery, or unfurled by firefighters above the ashes of the World Trade Center, the American ensign was just a patchwork of cloth. That all changed during the War of 1812.

The Star-Spangled Banner

The British fleet made preparations for an attack on the United States. In Baltimore, Major George Armistead at Fort McHenry was ready to defend the harbor. He expressed a desire for a large flag to fly over the fort, one the British could see from out at sea, miles away.

Mary Pickersgill, a prominent Baltimore flag maker, received the order for an oversized American flag to measure 30×42 feet. Pickersgill was an experienced maker of ships’ colors.

She and her assistants spent seven weeks designing and stitching the garrison flag. They sewed by candlelight, sitting on the floor of Claggett’s Brewery, the only space in East Baltimore large enough to accommodate the project. They assembled the dark blue field and the red and white stripes of the flag by piecing together strips of loosely woven English wool bunting.  Each of the fifteen horizontal red and white stripes measured two feet wide.  Each of the fifteen five-pointed white cotton stars measured two feet across. They were sewn into the upper left quarter, forming the flag’s canton, the rectangle of deep blue fabric which measured 16×21 feet. In all, the large flag required 300 yards of fabric.

Pickersgill’s flag was flying over Fort McHenry when the British fleet attacked on September 12, 1814. Intense bombardment targeted Fort McHenry on the evening of September 13. Heavy shelling continued for twenty-five hours.  British ships were unable to pass the fort and penetrate the harbor. The attack ended and the fleet retreated.

As dawn broke on the morning of September 14, the battered flag still flew above the ramparts of the fort. Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer and amateur poet, celebrated the sight of the flag in a poem. His words became our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Old Glory

In 1820, William Driver, a young sea captain, was presented a flag by his mother in Salem, Massachusetts. The hand-sewn flag was designed to be flown from the mast of the whaling vessel Charles Doggett. The flag had twenty-four stars and included a small anchor stitched in the corner of its blue canton.

As he left the harbor for a trip around the world, Captain Driver was the first to hail the flag as Old Glory. It served as the official flag throughout the voyage.

Driver retired from the sea in 1837 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, taking his cherished flag with him. He flew his beloved flag on all patriotic occasions. When the Civil War broke out some thirty years later, he stuffed Old Glory as batting inside a comforter to conceal it from the Confederate Army.

The Pledge of Allegiance

In 1985, I traveled with a group of scouts to the National Boy Scout Jamboree.   En route, we visited the Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. We stood gazing at the original Star-Spangled Banner, the same one flown over Fort McHenry that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the words of our national anthem. We marveled at the large size of that tattered flag.

Spontaneously, an Eagle Scout from Georgia snapped to attention, saluted, and recited, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America…”

Immediately, a host of scouts and other visitors joined in as we honored our flag and affirmed loyalty to our country.

On this Flag Day, we might all salute and to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

PENTECOST SUNDAY

June 4, 2017

Today is Pentecost. In many Christian traditions clergy don red vestments and stoles and members of the church wear red attire. Other congregations ignore the significance of the day, oblivious to the liturgical calendar, the ecclesiastical equivalent to forgetting a wedding anniversary.

Pentecost is a day to acknowledge one of the greatest gifts ever bestowed on the Christian Church. This is a day of power. Today we remember a frightened, disoriented group of disciples bereaved by the departure of their Master, left alone, abandoned, and powerless.  Then suddenly they were no longer alone. They had not been abandoned after all. And, by God, they were empowered.

The wind blew at gale force. Fire fell, not to consume them, but to ignite them as if they were the burning bushes of Moses, the ones through whom God could now speak. The Spirit descended like a flock of doves perching on each one of the disciples. Now they were anointed, emboldened, equipped, and encouraged to make a difference in the world.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian Church.  It is a day for balloons, party hats, noise makers, and ice cream and cake. This is a day for laughter, music, and dancing. This is a joyful day of celebration.

Pentecost is a time for gifts. God grants to each of us spiritual gifts as varied as befits our diversity. On Pentecost our gracious God gives us presents, and God gives us presence, God’s invisible presence as they Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God visits us sparking in us, rekindling within us the freedom and the power of creativity, inviting us to join God Almighty in recreating this world. It is a time to painting or draw, to play and instrument or sing a song, to write a poem or a letter of encouragement. It is a day to allow the Spirit of God to guide our creative spirit to express joy and gladness.

On this Pentecost, hear the good news attributed to the Apostle Paul.

Now the Lord is the Spirit;

and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

2 Corinthians 3:17

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,

but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

2 Timothy 1:7

Let’s celebrate!

CYPRESS KNEES AND CALLOUSED KNEES

June 3, 2017

Which resident of the Lowcountry is tall, bald, and has knobby knees?

When I first heard the riddle, my Aunt Gladys Hutson Jowers came to mind. She lived with her husband and eight children in a cabin on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp. The descriptive riddle would have fit Aunt Gladys in some ways. She was a slightly balding, thin woman with knobby knees who lived in the swamp.  Her hair loss probably came from raising those children. Maybe it was the frequent visits by alligators that crawled out of the swamp into her backyard, enticed by her chickens.

You can probably think of several acquaintances who fit the riddle’s description. But the correct answer is not a person at all. It is one of Aunt Gladys’ close neighbors, the bald cypress tree.

The South Georgia swamp behind Aunt Gladys’ cabin is Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Before that conservation effort in 1937, extensive logging operations had seriously depleted the boggy forest of cypress trees. Read more…

FOR MEMORIAL DAY

May 28, 2017

Here are two of my favorite stories for Memorial Day.

Dr. William Wilson served as President of the Center for Congregational Health until 2014. In January of that year he founded The Center for Healthy Churches. The following story came from his blog. It is about an experience Bill had at gate A-3 in the Charlotte airport.

“As I approached the gate, I saw that my flight was delayed. Slightly annoyed, I sighed over the coming inconvenience. I noticed a cadre of Transportation Security Administration agents in uniform standing in the gate area, and assumed they were in training, as the senior member of the group was clearly giving instructions about some pressing issue.

“Eventually, I wandered over to the windows to look out at the arriving plane we were to board, and was stunned to see that, as it arrived, it was being surrounded by five fire trucks. A crowd was gathering with me, and someone wondered aloud what was going on. A quiet voice said: ‘There’s a fallen warrior on board this plane’. In the cargo hold was a casket of a member of the military who had died in Afghanistan.

“Suddenly, the mood in gate A-3 shifted dramatically from annoyance to stunned silence. About then we noticed a small crowd gathering below us on the tarmac. A hearse arrived. The TSA agents formed a cordon through which walked two dozen members of the soldier’s family and friends. Dressed in black, they formed up into a small congregation alongside the plane. It was easy to tell the parents, and if there were any doubt, when the cargo door opened and the casket appeared, the mother’s knees buckled and she crumpled to the tarmac. Everyone in the gate area gasped as she went down. Immediately, her husband and daughter and their pastor all surrounded her and helped her to her feet and embraced her.

“Tears were flowing in a silent gate A-3, as this family struggled to get through the hardest day of their life. It was a holy moment as men and women, weeping openly, some reaching out to embrace or take the hands of strangers, murmured words of blessing and encouragement through the glass windows to those gathered below.

“At that moment, a military honor guard walked up to the plane, surrounded the casket and lifted it from the plane. With majestic precision, they marched to the hearse and placed the fallen warrior there. His parents and family trailed them, touching and kissing the flag-draped coffin.

“Slowly, the hearse pulled away and the family turned to leave. Their path from the tarmac led them up into our gate area and through those of us who had gathered to watch the events unfold below us. As they walked through the crowd of tear-streaked strangers, many of us reached out to touch and encourage them on their journey into the rest of their life.”

 

The second story was sent to me several years ago by my cousin, Captain Jim Hudson. I’m not sure where he got it, but it is certainly worth sharing for Memorial Day.

“Kevin and I, volunteers at a national cemetery in Oklahoma, had suffered through a long hot August day.  We wanted to go down to Smokey’s and have a cold one. The time was 16:55, five minutes before the cemetery gates closed. My full dress uniform was hot. The temperature and humidity were both high.

“I saw a 1970 model Cadillac Deville pull into the drive at a snail’s pace. An old woman got out so slowly I thought she was disabled. She walked with a cane and carried four or five bunches of flowers.

“The thought came unwanted to my mind; she’s going to spend an hour or more here! This old soldier was hot! My hip was hurting, I was ready to leave, but my duty was to help any visitor needing assistance.

“I broke post attention. My hip made gritty noises when I took the first step, and the pain went up a notch. I must have made a real military sight: a middle-aged man with a pot gut and half a limp. Though I was in Marine full-dress uniform, it had lost its razor crease about thirty minutes after I began my watch at the cemetery.

“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?’

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

‘My pleasure, ma’am,’ I lied.

She looked again. ‘Marine, where did you serve?’

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

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

‘No hurry, ma’am.’

“She smiled and winked at me. ‘Son, I’m eighty-five 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.’

“In the World War I section, she stopped by a stone, placing one of the flower bunches on the marker. The name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC, France 1918.

“In the World War II section, she paused at another grave.  With a tear running down her cheek, she laid flowers above the name Stephen X. Davidson, USMC, 1943.

“Just up the row she placed another bunch on a stone, Stanley J. Wieserman, USMC, 1944.

“She paused, wiping tears from her eyes. ‘Just two more, son.’

‘Yes, ma’am. Take your time.’

“Walking down the path in the Vietnam section, the lady stopped at several stones before she found the ones she wanted. She placed flowers on Larry Wieserman, USMC, 1968. The last bunch was for Darrel Wieserman, USMC, 1970.

“She bowed her head in prayer and wept openly.

“After a few moments she was ready to leave. ‘Please help me back to my car. Time to go home.’

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

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

“Whether she had finished, or couldn’t finish, I don’t know. She slowly made her way to her car. I waited for a polite distance to come between us and then double-timed it over to Kevin, waiting by the car.

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

“Kevin drove us to the gate down the service road fast. We beat her there. She hadn’t made it around the rotunda yet.

‘Kevin, stand at attention next to the gatepost. Follow my lead.’

“I hurried across the drive to the other post.

“When the Cadillac came puttering around from the hedges and began the short straight traverse to the gate, I called in my best gunny’s voice: ‘Tehen hut! Present haaaarms!’

“Mrs. Wieserman drove through that gate with two old soldiers giving her a send-off she deserved, for service rendered to her country, and for knowing duty, honor, and sacrifice far beyond most Americans.”

On Memorial Day we remember, not only those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in military service, but we also remember the families who will always grieve their passing.