Ben Stein's Diary

A Military Funeral

As described by a dear friend, who had never been to one.

By 11.5.10

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Thursday
I received this today from a dear friend. I believe my dear readers would want to take it to heart:

Fredi's late husband was buried today with full military honors at the nearby Veterans Cemetery. I had never been to a military funeral. It had been a long long time since I attended a Jewish funeral. It was an amazing display to see the two of them together.

The service was conducted in an open air structure. (Some of this is going to seem non-informational to you since you have attended a military funeral... but

it was totally new to me!) The honor guard stood at attention as we arrived. There was a representative from each of the branches of the service and I made sure to thank each of them as I passed by. I hope they knew that I was completely serious when I thanked them for their service. The military person who conducted his portion of the service warned us that the volleys would be loud, and most of those in attendance covered their ears, but it didn't seem that bad to me. I admit that I flinched. I don't think we should kid ourselves about the level of noise when a gun is fired. And I wanted to make certain that I honored everyone who has ever fired a gun in defense of this nation by listening to the noise their guns make.

The flag folding part is really awe inspiring. I remember that my mother received the flag that draped my father's coffin, but it certainly was not folded in front of us. When Taps faded, there was a calliope sounding rendition of a patriotic tune, but I forget what it was. It played nearly constantly, but once the Cantor began, I guess they either cut it off or I was not aware of it.

They offered us the shell casings of the bullets fired and I took one because it felt rude not to. What in God's name am I supposed to be doing with it? I thanked the service men and women again as we left and then we made our way out.

If Fredi hadn't taken 10:30 AM today, there wasn't another available time for internment until next Tuesday and that obviously would have been a tremendous problem. Can there be that many service men/women and their families who are dying? And I was taken by the lines upon lines of simple white headstones standing there in the cool crisp late fall morning sun -- which made only a momentary appearance on the otherwise gray day. It made me think about how many such small cemeteries there are honoring men, women and families who placed defending this nation as a priority on their list of life accomplishments. It made me think about the vast number of those who have died putting America first. It is an understanding that made me feel abundantly grateful and at the same time reminded me how ignorant we are as to the vast number of souls who have put their lives on the line. I think we can all honor the collective memory better than we do with a few days that are only half-heartedly observed -- and then mostly as a day when the retail chains offer specials and discounts.

I have a renewed appreciation. And while I have always admired you for your support of the military men, women, wives and families I applaud you for it now.

Be well.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.