Recently, I was at a Cincinnati Reds game on a Friday evening. It was a very nice night for a game and we had those special tickets that come with the food and beverage and that special inside area. You know, the ones where you may not see too much of the game, but you will eat and drink well.
Well, somewhere around the fifth inning, I received a text from one of our local community leaders. She is a member of the local school board and someone with whom I sit on a board of directors for a local faith-based, non-profit, community outreach organization. She and I also have a history together with the Boy Scouts of America and had seen many a young man turn from Tiger Cub to Webelo to Tenderfoot to Life to Eagle and then go off; out into the world. Anyway, it was someone I know well and knew was well plugged into our community.
So her text was to inquire as to whether or not I had plans for that Sunday afternoon, which I actually did. You see, I am a professional vocalist — now more of an avocational interest — and I was scheduled to attend one of those “Luncheons.” You know the kind… where a whole many of us stuff-shirt, artsey-fartsey types get together and talk art for art’s sake and approve of one another in our own little hermetically sealed world. I mean, after all, I had contributed $30 to the opera guild sponsoring this doo-dah and was all prepared to sit at the head table with the upper-crust of the upperest-crusty in the whole artsey-fartsey world. Of course I was busy… And I texted back that I was in fact otherwise obligated.
Well, shortly after that, she hit me with another text explaining that she had wanted me to sing for a ceremony dedicating a section of road to a local fallen soldier. OK, now that’s not playing fair… This son of two veterans and brother of another 6 veterans — one of which was in fact a fallen warrior — and uncle to a great many young veterans was suddenly in a rather awkward position… Whether to sup with the artsey-fartsey and try to eat my $30 worth of rich, overpriced finger sandwiches while being told how wonderful I was… or sing for this solemn dedication to a fallen local solder; one of the “honored dead” who had given “the last full measure of devotion.” She was really not playing fair at all…
Well, I watched a couple more innings of baseball and ate more from the copious food and beverage that was part of my ticket price. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but keep coming back to the irony of what I was doing… and what I was going to be doing that Sunday… and what else would be going on at that time. Whilst sitting eating finger sandwiches with the artsey-fartsey mutual admiration society, a family from my community would gather with friends and family and dedicate a small strip of road in memory of one of their own that was lost in a conflict half-way around the world to safeguard my ability to watch this ball game and eat those finger sandwiches. It became overwhelming… Somewhere in the seventh or eighth inning, I sent her another text. I told her that she was not playing fair, but I would do it… She texted back with the time and place and that I should wear my Scout Leader uniform… OK…
Well, Sunday rolled around and I arrived at the appointed time and place respectfully clad in my Scouting attire with my many ribbons, metals and knots all about me. I was one of the earlier to arrive so when I arrived there was only me and one other car which happened to have one of our State Senators and his wife — dear friends of mine — and we met, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Soon others began to arrive until finally there was a still small, but respectable number of people alongside the road where the dedication sign was placed. And then the family cars began to arrive and the first one out of the car was a woman I knew well… and she knew me well… we had done many things together years earlier when her children were involved in Scouting… And then it began to fall into place. I was there that day to sing for a young man — a fallen warrior — that I had known and watched turn from Tiger Cub to Webelo to Tenderfoot to Life to Eagle and then go off; out into the world. And now he was back.
So, I sang and there was a brief series of comments and lying of wreaths and a balloon sendoff… His young widow thanked and hugged me through her tears for being there … The sign was hung and the road was dedicated and the crowd began to disperse… And I thought to myself how close I had come to missing this… How close I had come to sitting with the artsey-fartsey mutual appreciation society eating copious finger sandwiches and exchanging pleasantries…never knowing what I know now. God bless our young warriors…and their families…and their wives… and their children… who will never really know just how much their fathers and mothers loved them… and us… and our country. God bless our veterans all… my father and mother; my brothers; my nieces and nephews; and everyone else’s father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, niece, nephew who served… and serve still. A small patch of road seems like so little for the so much you gave.