Cemetary Duty

I just wanted to get the day over with and go down
to Smokey's for a few cold ones.

Sneaking a look at my watch, I saw the time, 1655.

Five minutes to go before the cemetery gates are
closed for the day.

Full dress was hot in the August sun. Oklahoma
summertime was as bad as ever -- the heat and
humidity at the same level -- both too high.

I saw the car pull into the drive, 69 or 70 model
Cadillac Deville, looked factory-new.

It pulled into the parking lot at a snail's pace.
An old woman got out so slow I thought she was
paralyzed.

She had a cane and a sheaf of flowers, about four
or five bunches as best I could tell.

I couldn't help myself.

The thought came unwanted, and left a slightly
bitter taste:

She's going to spend an hour, and for this old
soldier my hip hurts like hell and I'm ready to
get out of here right now!

But for this day my duty was to assist anyone
coming in.

Kevin would lock the "In" gate and if I could
hurry the old biddy along , we might make the
last half of happy hour at Smokey's.

I broke Post Attention.

My hip made gritty noises when I took the first
step and the pain went up a notch.

I must have made a real military sight;
middle-aged man with a small pot-gut and half a
limp, in Marine Full Dress Uniform, which had
lost its razor crease about 30 minutes after I
began the watch at the cemetery.

I stopped in front of her, halfway up the walk.

She looked up at me with an old woman's squint.

"Ma'am may I assist you in any way?"

She took long enough to answer.

"Yes, son. Can you carry these flowers? I seem to
be moving a tad slow these days."

"My pleasure Ma'am."

Well, it wasn't too much of a lie.

She looked again. "Marine, where were you
stationed?"

"Vietnam, Ma'am. Ground-pounder. 69 to 71."

She looked at me closer. "Wounded in action, I
see. Well done, Marine I'll be as quick as I can."

I lied a little bigger, "No hurry, Ma'am."

She smiled, and winked at me.

"Son, I'm 85-years old and I can tell a lie from
a long way off. Let's get this done. Might be the
last time I can do this.

My name's Joanne Wieserman, and I've a few Marines
I'd like to see one more time."

"Yes, Ma'am. At your service."

She headed for the World War I section, stopping
at a stone.

She picked one of the bunches out of my arm and
laid it on top of the stone.

She murmured something I couldn't quite make out.

The name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson,
USMC, France 1918.

She turned away and made a straight line for the
World War II section, stopping at one stone.

I saw a tear slowly tracking its way down her
cheek.

She put a bunch on a stone; the name was Stephen
X. Davidson, USMC, 1943.

She went up the row a ways and laid another bunch
on a stone, Stanley J. Wieserman USMC, 1944.

She paused for a second, "Two more, son, and we'll
be done"

I almost didn't say anything, but, "Yes, Ma'am.
Take your time."

She looked confused.

"Where's the Vietnam section, son?

I seem to have lost my way."

I pointed with my chin. "That way, Ma'am."

"Oh!" she chuckled quietly.

"Son, me and old age ain't too friendly."

She headed down the walk I'd pointed at.

She stopped at a couple of stones before she found
the ones she wanted.

She placed a bunch on Larry Wieserman USMC, 1968,
and the last on Darrel Wieserman USMC, 1970.

She stood there and murmured a few words I still
couldn't make out.

"OK, son , I'm finished.

Get me back to my car and you can go home."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"If I may ask, were those your kinfolk?"

She paused. "Yes, Donald Davidson was my father,
Stephen was my uncle, Stanley was my husband,
and Larry and Darrel were our sons.

All killed in action, all Marines."

She stopped, whether she had finished, or couldn't
finish, I don't know.

She made her way to her car, slowly, and painfully.

I waited for a polite distance to come between us
and then double-timed it over to Kevin waiting by
the car.

"Get to the "Out"-gate quick.

I have something I've got to do."

Kevin started to say something but saw the look I
gave him.

He broke the rules to get us there down the
service road.

We beat her.

She hadn't made it around the rotunda yet.

"Kevin, stand to attention next to the gate post.

Follow my lead."

I humped it across the drive to the other post.

When the Cadillac came puttering around from the
hedges and began the short straight traverse to
the gate, I called in my best gunny's voice:

"TehenHut! Present Haaaarms!"

I have to hand it to Kevin, he never blinked an
eye; full dress attention and a salute that would
make his DI proud.

She drove through that gate with two old worn-out
soldiers giving her a send off she deserved, for
service rendered to her country, and for knowing
Duty, Honor and Sacrifice.

I am not sure, but I think I saw a salute returned
from that Cadillac.