I don’t know what it is about this time of the year — starting just before Thanksgiving and lasting until shortly after Christmas — but it is both depressing and very uplifting at the same time.
The depressing part is the number of deaths we have, whether it is a veteran or an active-duty service member lost through accident or suicide. For some reason, the number of deaths seems to rise during the holiday season.
One thing that truly saddens me is the notifications of an unaccompanied veteran burial at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery. This means the veteran has either no living family left to see him or her properly buried, or the family lives too far away to attend. In some cases, such as a recent funeral I attended, the remaining family members just didn’t care their veteran had died.
That is the worst thing I could think of. If I don’t have family left when it’s time to regroup in Hell, that’s one thing. For my family to not care enough to see me buried, however, would be upsetting enough I would stick around and haunt them maliciously.
What makes me think so much about this is the number of funerals in the past few weeks. Last week alone there were two unaccompanied funerals, for 78-year-old Daryl Richard Gibbs and 65-year-old Dennis Louis Beggs. This morning, we bury Galen Bruce Pearson. I wanted to mention their names again, because each of these men at one point in their life signed a blank check to their nation for up to and including the cost of their life.
Fortunately for our area, though, there is that uplifting part of the season. Thanks to tireless work by the Texas Veterans Land Board, the Friends of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, area veteran associations and phenomenal people such as the Patriot Guard and other motorcycle associations, no veteran buried at our state cemetery will go alone.
In an area filled with active-duty service members, veterans and retirees, we ensure our brothers and sisters receive the honors they so valiantly deserve. We stand in as family, because we are. It doesn’t matter whether the veteran is a soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coast Guardsman. It doesn’t matter if he or she served in combat, during a war, conflict or time of peace.
It only matters that they served.
I’m pretty sure my family cares enough that I would never have to worry about them missing my funeral, but it’s nice to know that no matter what happens, my military family will see me off with honor.
David A. Bryant is an Army retiree and the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.