Hope and Tears for America

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Tim Van Schmidt

 

I have been moved to tears.

Just recently, I traveled to northern Wisconsin to participate in a remembrance gathering for my late 94-year-old uncle.

I did fine throughout most of the service, held in the chapel of a blissful cemetery in the “Great Northwoods”. But then, all of the attendees were invited to file outside to witness Military Honors performed by a local Honor Guard. My uncle had served in the Navy and that was a point of pride in his life.

The ceremony included volleys respectfully shot into the air by an eight-member squad. Then the water started coming to my eyes while “Taps” was being beautifully played on a lone bugle.

But what really made me choke up was when two Honor Guard members, smartly dressed in crisp white uniforms, unfurled a large American flag, displayed it, then refolded it with a solemn, silent purposefulness and care. The flag was then presented to my aunt as a token of thanks for my uncle’s service.

The way these Honor Guard members performed their duty was so perfectly focused and seriously accomplished — without a hint of hesitation. It reached deep into my heart. I cannot express just how touching and even inspirational this experience was.

I am so thankful for that.

My trip back to Colorado was uneventful, passing through the busy Minneapolis airport and wading through the crowds at the ultra-busy Denver airport, finally returning to Fort Collins with a warm satisfaction that my uncle had been honored beautifully.

That was on June 9.

The next morning I opened my usual round of news sites to catch up on what had been happening in the world — the calmness of staying on a gorgeous lakefront in Wisconsin and warmly interacting with relatives still circulating in my mind. And then what I saw took over like a tornado of darkness.

On June 10, the news was flooded with articles and videos covering the first public hearing from the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. I was quickly sobered by the text I was reading. Then my tears came back when I viewed videos of the event.

I saw Americans viciously and angrily pummeling other Americans — pushing, punching, hitting, stabbing, screaming, and wreaking destruction on our capitol. It made me weep.

This was the exact opposite of what I experienced at my uncle’s remembrance service a few days earlier. And it made me ask myself — what would my uncle think about this? What would my late father — also a Navy veteran — think of this? What about my Vietnam War veteran friend, a Marine Lieutenant, who passed away last December due to CO-VID think?

Many years ago, I heard the late Desmond Tutu speak at Moby Arena at CSU. And he said the only road to peace had to be in accepting “all”, making “all” welcome to the table. How do we create a society that accepts “all” including those people who fought on the Capitol steps?

January 6. School shootings. Racial hatred. So much more. What are we doing to ourselves? How do we survive this extreme turbulence?

I ask questions but have no answers. 

I might not have hope for the future if I hadn’t witnessed my uncle’s Military Honors. There I saw a solemnity and grace that paid true honor to a man who was proud of serving his country.

American honor still has a place in the world.

The American dishonor I saw in those January 6 videos reminds me that we still have a long way to go.

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