Help heal night terrors by honoring fallen soldiers- Memorial Weekend is just around the corner

Written by Dan Moran. Posted in Featured

Published on May 23, 2018 with No Comments

It seems to come faster each year, and Calumet Park Cemetery will be ready to honor veterans on “the day” with speeches from dignitaries, with an honor guard lowering the flag, with saluting of the flag as Taps is played and with the placement of three wreaths at the huge, granite memorial to all veterans.  All of these actions are meant to show respect and honor for those who wore the uniform and who did their part for freedom.

I don’t know if it is life fatigue as I get older, post-traumatic stress disorder, combat fatigue or shell shock, but this business of caring for the dead is harder for me during Memorial Weekend and Veterans Day than other times of the year.  I have met with so many families that have lost a loved one over the past 30 years.

Death has come in so many ways, from anticipation due to advanced age to the sudden shock of accidents, from car crashes to drownings to gunshot victims and more.  They come each day, every day as they have from the beginning of time and will continue to the end of days.  But for me, the most difficult case is the death of a soldier.

As general manager, I usually do not come into the picture unless there are seemingly unsurmountable problems in any particular case that cannot be handled by our family service counselor staff, such as who has the legal right to burial or open a grave or diffuse situations when a family wants something to happen that is either against company policy or outside the law.  So, most of the people that I meet each day are people hurting beyond hurt and are looking for answers.  Their biggest unasked question is why God took their loved one away from them. Afraid to challenge God, they find it totally okay to challenge and “beat up on” our staff and me at times. And that’s okay, usually.

Where I generally show my human weakness and proclivity to anger is when a family accuses Calumet Park Cemetery and our staff of not caring for veterans.  The attacks can be over something as simple and correctable as raising and leveling of a flush memorial marker to not letting the family put a flag on a grave every day of the year if they want to.  Or, on the one weekend that they take the time to visit a grave of a fallen soldier, they want to know why there is not flag on their loved one’s grave.

I am a veteran, having served for 21 months in Vietnam.  An inspection of my DD214 (discharge papers) in box  24:  Decorations medals badges commendations citations and campaign ribbons awarded or authorized you would read the following:  NDSM (National Defense Service Medal), VSM (Vietnam Service Medal) PRCHT BDG (parachute badge), VCM (Vietnam Combat Medal) W/60 device, BSM W/2d OLC (bronze star with oakleaf clusters means a cluster for each additional bronze star medal after the original one is awarded) , ARCOM (Army Commendation Medal W/1STOLC, GCMDL (good conduct medal), VN JUMP WINGS (Vietnamese jump wings), SP M-14, EXP(ert) M-16.

Calumet Park Cemetery does honor veterans as we put into place in 2010, shortly after my arrival at Calumet Park, a veterans’ program unlike anything in the entire country.  What do we do for veterans?  How about a free grave space, free installation of government marker (along with granite backer when needed), highly reduced pricing on opening/closings, vaults, caskets, funeral services and just about anything that has to do with veterans.  We have taken care of the complete costs for indigent veterans at times, and honor veterans on Memorial Weekend and on Veterans Day.  The lost dollars have reached to the levels of hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost revenue by Calumet Park and for but one purpose…to give something back to veterans for the sacrifices made by them and their families.

Calumet Park and Rendina Funeral Home spends a great deal of time and man hours to make sure that veterans are honored every day of the year.  What I would love to see, at least once before I leave this planet, is for thousands of people to come to the cemetery on Memorial Weekend, and on May 27 at 1:00 p.m. in particular.  Each year a couple of hundred caring people show for the special hour of honoring veterans. It would be wonderful to have this times 10, as there are so many who talk the talk of honoring vets yet do not walk the walk.  I am only asking that the cemetery be filled up with those who have been in the service, or who have had family that served, to join with us on this one spring day to show their real colors.

So many have bled red, white and blue on the battlefields around the globe.  Due to their dedication and sacrifice, and the sacrifice of those family members left behind, we are a nation that celebrates freedom under one flag every single day.  Look for me when you come out.  I will be wearing a baseball cap with a Special Forces logo on it.  I would like to shake the hand of those who I went overseas to protect our life of freedom.  I am selfish…I am almost 70…and I want my own personal war to stop.  Enough handshakes and hugs given to the military person in your life with a simple acknowledgement of thanks may be the cure for what ails their hearts and their minds.

I have held in a lot of toughness over the years. When I see the suffering of guys and gals returning from our recent wars without as much as a united thank you from a grateful nation I weep, secretly and alone in the quiet, still moments. It is then that a day at a cemetery, with thousands of people showing respect and, may I say it, love, for a solder just may serve as a healing balm to the night terrors that visit so many veterans of foreign wars.  Hope to see you among the crowd of people on this one special day.  You will have plenty of time for hot dogs and beer after this time of remembering.

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