Thursday, November 23, 2006
(11/23/2006 11:59:00 PM) - Al
I found this story in a strange place, when I checked my Sharebuilder account tonight.
Since I cannot seem to find a way to link it, as it's account specific, I will reprint it below.
Thanksgiving is a time of celebration, a time to have lots of good-natured fun, share stories and hugs, a time to look past matters of money, investing and retirement plans.
Thanksgiving is about family. Loved ones. Grandma and grandpa. Mom and dad. Kids and grandchildren giggling. A special time to give thanks by sharing the gifts you have, the tears, the laughter! That's the way our creator wants it too.
Be thankful for all we have right now, today. For the family gathering, roast turkey, gravy, stuffing, hot cider and punch, grandma's pumpkin pie, board games, gossip and rumors, football games, movies and naps, family rituals and traditions, and lots of laughs, retelling stories about the good ole days, the neighbors, and all the lovable odd-balls in the family.
But before all the fun begins, let's take a moment to honor all of America's heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for you and me, and for the families left behind who gave even more, for all their kids, siblings, parents, grandparents and friends who are left with fond memories as they sit near an empty chair at their table this Thanksgiving.
One special story captures this moment better than anything I could ever say. I choke up every time I think about it, maybe because I was also a Marine in Korea, although this story's for the families of every soldier, sailor, airman and marine who ever fought to protect our freedoms. The story honors all their sacrifices. It goes to the heart of what Thanksgiving's really about, especially at this unique moment in America's history.
The story is told often. I first heard it in a sermon by Dr. Robert H. Schuller of "Hour of Power" fame at the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, Calif. You probably know about him through his many books on the "Power of Possibility Thinking." So for a moment, let's share the spirit of Thanksgiving in Dr. Schuller's simple story passed along to him by a dear friend years ago.
A simple story
Here's the story as Dr. Schuller tells it:
Two retired U.S. Marines were a bit overweight and had some creaking in their hips, but they still wore their dress uniforms when they were assigned to take charge of the Marine Corps cemetery. This day they couldn't wait for the day to end. They were ready to close the front gate when they saw a large old Cadillac drive up with an old woman behind the wheel.
This is what my friend writes: "I thought, oh gee, here goes another 15 minutes before we can lock up."
As she pulled her car into the curb, she got out slowly and said, "Son." I said, "Ma'am, can I help you?"
She took a long time to answer. "Yes, can you help me carry some of these flowers?" And she had five little bouquets of flowers. She said, "I move a little slow these days." Then she asked, "Son, where were you stationed?"
I said, "Vietnam, ma'am, ground pounder. '69 to '71." She looked at me more closely. "Wounded in action, I see. Well done! Marine, I'll be as quick as I can."
I lied. "No hurry, ma'am." She smiled and winked at me and said, "I'm 85 years old, I can tell a lie when I see it. My name is Joanne Wieserman and I met a few Marines and I'd like to see them one more time."
"Yes ma'am, at your service." She knew exactly where she wanted to go. She headed for the World War I section, then stopping at a stone, she picked one of the bunches of flowers out of my arms, laid it on top of the stone and murmured something I couldn't hear. But then I read the name on the marble, Donald S. Davidson, USMC France, 1918.
Then she turned away and made a straight line for the World War II section. Stopping at one stone I saw a tear roll down her check. She put more flowers on the stone with the name, Steven X. Davidson, USMC 1943.
Then she went further in the same row and laid another bunch of flowers on a stone with the name Stanley J. Wieserman, USMC 1944. Wieserman - that was her name! She paused for a second, and then said, "Two more, son, and we'll be done and you can go home."
I didn't say anything but "Yes, ma'am, take your time." Then she looked confused, "Where is the Vietnam section? Son, I seem to have lost my way." So I pointed, "That way, ma'am."
"Oh," she chuckled quietly, "me and my age don't get along too well once in a while." And she headed down the walk, stopped at a couple of stones, then she found the ones she wanted and there she placed a small bouquet of flowers at the stone of Larry Wieserman, USMC 1968 (that's her name, too). And then near it, she placed the last cluster of flowers on a stone with the name Darryl Wieserman, USMC 1970. She murmured a few words that I couldn't hear. "Okay, son, all finished. Just get me back to my car and you can go home."
"Yes ma'am. If I may ask, were these your kinfolk?" She paused, "Yes. Donald Davidson, 1917, France, was my father. Stephen Davidson was my bother. And Stanley, you recognized the name -- it's my name, he was my husband. And Larry and Darryl were our sons. All were killed in action! All were Marines."
She didn't say anything more as she kept walking to her car, opened the door, then closed it quietly. I watched. I waited. Then, as her car began to leave I quickly rushed to Kevin, my overweight Marine Corps buddy in his dress uniform. I ordered, "Get to the front gate! Quick. Take the service road. We need to get to the front gate before her. We have got something we must do. So just do what I do. Don't ask any questions."
Kevin could see I was very urgent so we rushed ahead and got to the front gate before her car rounded the cemetery drive and aimed for the front gate. Kevin stood at his post and I stood at mine. As the car came slowly to the gate, I shouted: "Attention! Post arms!" We both saluted and as she drove through, I thought I saw her salute us back.
Duty, honor, service. None of those whose graves she visited had given more than she did.
That's the story as Dr. Schuller tells it. Our thanks to all the Joannes and their families out there today on this special Thanksgiving, as they sit next to an empty chair honoring Donald, Stephen, Stanley, Larry, Darryl and thousands of others who sacrificed so much for our freedom. We salute all of you.
I've mentioned this empty chair idea before, and I will not hesitate to begin my own holiday tradition this year. I have many things to be thankful for this year, and at the top of my list is the simple fact I'm fortunate enough to live in the greatest nation to ever exist.
A special thank you to the men and women who are defending our freedom and interests and are far away from family this holiday.
11/23/2006 11:59:00 PM