The Veteran’s Cemetery Annex in Salisbury, NC is a peaceful gathering place for our dead soldiers. Its rolling hills fade to railroad tracks in the distance, and on a mild February afternoon in 2022 my wife and I attended a service for a Marine. His memorial service was held in a hilltop pavilion surrounded by the white markers of his comrades. The hills cradled the dead while we paid our debt to a Marine who fought in Vietnam but succumbed to brain cancer years later.
After the words and prayers of his pastors barely had had enough time to float across the hillside, two workers pulled up in a noisy gator-type vehicle. On its bed was a large black wooden box. Before the widow and family had exchanged words with the gathered or even exited the pavilion, the workers invaded the space and backed up to the casket. After they had unceremoniously loaded it into the black box, they drove down the hill as some of his grandchildren watched its frenzied race to his waiting grave.
Not a veteran, I don’t have any appreciation for the words, “Thanks for your service.” However, I find them empty and phony. And when I witness such callous disregard as I did yesterday for our soldiers, I question our sincerity for their service. As the adage has it, words are cheap, but acts speak loudly.