He was off work Saturday, so he slept in about an hour later than usual, but then got up and started the coffee pot. When it was ready he got a cup and read the news and checked his email, and thought about the day to come.
After a second cup of coffee, he got up and flipped on his iron, and starched and pressed his best white dress shirt. He buffed up the black dress shoes, and pinned his Airborne wings and Pathfinder badge onto the lapel of his suit jacket. He showered and put the suit on, tied his tie, and headed out the door.
He didn’t know if anyone else would be at the cemetery, since the local news had run their story about an elderly veteran who had passed, and had no family to attend his funeral. He had never met the old veteran before, but he knew that he’d be sick to his stomach if the news that evening said that no one had come to pay respects. So he had to go.
He arrived a good hour early and parked some distance away, and walked to the gravesite. About a dozen others were already there, milling about and getting acquainted with one another. He knew he was in the right place when he observed the commemorative vault lid, donated by a local burial vault company.
Little by little, more people arrived, undeterred by the blazing sun. The military funeral detail arrived, along with a bugler and bagpipers, who warmed up in a shady spot nearby. As more and more people collected, he overheard one of the cemetery workers’ radio squawk, “There’s probably 400 vehicles. I don’t know what you’re going to do.” Despite the solemn nature of the event, it made him smile a little.
Finally, the hearse carrying the old veteran rolled in, led by dozens of veteran bikers, and followed by even more cars. So many cars, in fact, that most of them never even got near the small patch of ground, and their occupants had to park where they were and walk.
The old veteran was carried lovingly to his grave a team of the veteran bikers while the bagpipes played. Prayers were made, and words were said, and the flag was removed from his casket and neatly folded by the captain and the sergeant who made up the military funeral detail. With no family present, the captain presented the flag to the funeral director, and rendered a slow hand salute.
The ceremony was concluded, and the crowd slowly broke up. He walked back to his vehicle, feeling good about what had just taken place, and feeling good to have been a part of it. He said a little prayer of his own that God willing, he could someday meet the old veteran for the first time and shake his hand, and say, “I remember you.”