Gerald Richardson was better known here as Stumpy (UID 8158). Stumpy had been around Daily Kos since the beginning. During his final years, he lived in Boone, North Carolina. He was in failing health, but his great spirit overcame his weakening condition. He always had a thousand-watt grin for everyone, and his great spirit inspired others to do their best. Sara R had made a quilt for him that I was supposed to deliver the following week after it was finished. I live within driving distance of where he was staying in Boone. Sara was going to send the quilt to me, and I was going to deliver it to him with some fanfare and lots of pictures. Two days before the quilt was to get here, I got a call that Stumpy had died of complications from his illness.
The plans changed from a celebration of giving him a great quilt, to giving him a great burial. Follow me over the fold and I will tell you about burying Stumpy.
It is not necessary to eulogize the inimitable stumpy here. Sara R has already done that in a wonderful diary. You can see Sara's great diary here.
Gerald Richardson was an Air Force veteran. His MOS was intelligence, and he brought a high level of genius to the job. After his death, I learned he spoke six languages. His religious beliefs are not fully clear, since he was as knowledgeable as any theological scholar about the Bible, Koran, Torah, the writings of Confucius and many other holy books of great world religions.
But this is not about his full and varied life, it is about what happens when a veteran dies. When any veteran who has been discharged Honorably passes away, he or she is eligible for burial in a National Cemetery. The only proof needed is a valid Form DD-214 which shows the dates of service, rank, decorations and type of discharge. In Stumpy's case, he served during the Vietnam era which can be shown on his stone.
After I got the word of his death, I began coordinating with his special friend webgenie and his friend Briton. Briton had been involved in his care-giving, and had the official Power of Attorney to handle the arrangements for his burial. Neither webgenie nor Briton knew exactly how to go about getting him into the National Cemetery. Since I have been down this road before, I knew the staff at the Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City, Tennessee. Mountain Home is a beautiful cemetery near the Mountain Home Veterans Hospital. I called the cemetery administrator to get basic information which I relayed to Briton. He then submitted the DD-214 and the cemetery manager helped fill out the forms. When I went by the cemetery, I discovered Briton had requested the symbol for Atheist in the space for faith. Having known that Stumpy was a man of great knowledge about religion, this did not seem quite right to me, but I could not put up the symbol for a specific religion either. I told the manager my thinking on the matter so we agreed to leave any symbol of faith off the stone altogether.
I made arrangements for a bagpiper to play for the service. Stumpy was proud of his Scottish heritage. He comes from a long line of Highland warriors, and the skirling of the pipes runs deep in his DNA. The piper we contacted is an immensely talented young man who had just returned from an international competition in Glasgow, where he placed third. Not bad for a teenager from northeast Tennessee.
During our meeting with Ben the piper, we selected two traditional pipe tunes that are often used during Scottish funerals. The first song selected was Amazing Grace. This song is the single most requested pipe tune for funerals and other special occasions.
After the playing of Amazing Grace, the military part of the service began. The Colonel in charge spoke briefly about the call to duty that only some can hear. Then the military chaplain gave a brief talk about about what it meant for a man like Stumpy to serve. He closed with a brief prayer. Then, the Colonel took the tri-folded flag and keeled before webgenie. The grizzled old warrior honored her, speaking in a low voice of the thanks of a grateful nation His words were warm and comforting to her at that terrible moment in time.
Following the presentation of the flag to her, the Colonel stood at attention and saluted webgenie and the flag representing Stumpy. He held the salute for a very long time.
After the presentation of the flag, the seven riflemen picked up their rifles and assumed the firing position. Three volleys ring out, for a total of twenty-one rounds in the salute. Then the bugler plays Taps. I have written before that Taps is unique. It is a mournful sound that rips the soul and has a finality that no other melody has.
Here is the three-volley (twenty-one round)salute:
As soon as the rifles spoke, the bugler played Taps. This was not a recorded or electronic version, it was a real musician playing his authentic bugle.
Following Taps, the piper once again aired up his Great Highland Bagpipes to play The Mist Covered Mountains. This version is on the Smallpipes, which have a thinner and sweeter sound than the mighty Pibroch Mohr. The smallpipes seem to lend themselves well to laments.
Following the formal services at the Pavilion, Stumpy's remains were carried by the cemetery officials to his final resting place in Section WW of the cemetery. His remains were cremated, and this section is for cremated remains. Interesting that the spacing between stones is exactly the same for all, so if one did not know, you cannot tell if the remains were normally embalmed and in a casket, or buried in a cremation urn.
It was at this point the memorial departed from the customary. Webgenie had the quilt Sara had made. We carefully spread it over Stumpy and all those present had a long moment of meditation.
His stone would not be here for another six weeks, but he did have a marker. And flowers.
Here is a close up of the quilt spread over Stumpy. We all agreed that when we can, we will return and spread he quilt over him on special occasions.
It took a little longer than the anticipated six weeks, but his stone finally arrived. He now has a marker for all time, in one of the most hallowed grounds on the planet.
The inscription on the stone: "By Courage, Not Craft" is the English translation of one of the several mottoes of Clan Gordon, Stumpy's own clan that represents his family heritage. This particular phrase seemed to be the most appropriate to me, and if anyone has a problem with it, I assume full responsibility.
I had a flag case, which I gave webgenie to carry the flag in. I was concerned about the TSA screeners, given the fact the case front has a large panel of glass. I left the flag case in its cardboard box to protect it. When she got to the check-in counter the screener told her to open the box. That was despite the fact that the three sided box looked like nothing else but what it was. She also had the plastic baggie with twenty-one spent rifle shells. The glass case was the subject of a brief discussion, but they got all excited about the spent cartridges. Finally a supervisor appeared on the scene, took one look and waved her through. As he passed her through the checkpoint, he thanked her and handed her his business card, telling her that if she had any more problems or just needed anything at all, to call him. She began to notice that people would stare for a moment at the three sided box, but look away quickly, casting their eyes downward.
Once on the plane, she was holding the flag case in her lap. The flight attendant told her she could not carry something like that, it would have to go into the storage bin. Our webgenie informed the flight attendant that the box was going to remain on her lap, and with that she flipped open the lid so the attendant could see what it was. The young woman peered at the folded flag and then was gone a few minutes, coming back to tell webgenie that the Captain said she could carry that flag any way she damn well pleased, and wanted to welcome her and her flag aboard his flight.
I sit here reflecting on a life gone too soon, and the fact that despite his increasing frailty, his was a life lived in out-sized proportion. He was an environmentalist and humanitarian. He loved his fellow man and worried about the preservation of the planet. His last post on November 24, 2009 was about issues that mattered to him, and by extension, to us all:
We missed the boat on green technology (4+ / 0-)
BMarshall, NoMoreLies, NBBooks, yaque
The brain trust driving American business saw no need to move toward renewable energy and other aspects of the green economy and they now find themselves terribly behind other nations.
And we gave these jerks how much of our national treasure as their personal lifesupport?
Republicans are afflicted by CHIDS-Chronic Humor and Irony Deficit Syndrome, pronounced 'kids' with a parental sigh.
by stumpy on Tue Nov 24, 2009 at 05:42:38 PM EST
Bless you Stumpy, as you begin your journey to forever....