My grandpa, Charles Clark, enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1941 and served four years, stationed in Guam and Alaska. He was active in the American Legion for 69 years, always proud to be a WWII vet. When I was a child, our Memorial Day tradition was watching Grandpa march in the Chatfield, Minnesota parade.
Like most of that greatest generation, Grandpa rarely spoke about his military service. A modest man, he never sought recognition for that or any other successes. Back in 1945, he was content to quietly return home, marry my grandma, settle into a career of managing grain elevators in North Dakota, and raise five children.
Last Veterans Day, two servicemen came to Grandpa's room at the hospice house in Rochester. They presented him with a small gift and saluted him as he lay alert but unable to respond. Looking at photographs from that ceremony is acutely moving to me tonight. For all that is wretched and broken about 21st-century America, here is a moment that shines of our country's pride and virtue. An honorable gesture for an honorable man.
The roses in the above picture are from the flower arrangement on Grandpa's casket, and the shell is from the honor guard's salute at the graveside ceremony. It rests in plain sight in my living room, a daily reminder of sacrifice, honor—and a precious future reunion in our Savior's presence.