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  • The flag draped gurney stood in the center of the atrium. The honor guard had requested they be awakened if he passed during the night. At two am the sound of taps gently filled the silence. They stood tall, as the youth they once were, and delivered the final hand salute.

    Brother and sister held back the tears as they too stood at attention and gave their salute until the silence returned and the honor guard rolled the hero to the waiting hearse.

    The hero's walk was complete.

    It is a ceremony that will be repeated as every veteran there leaves on his final journey.

    A day later Josh and I arrived at the St. Louis airport to be with each other and, after stopping to see my brother and sister, traveled to the Missouri Veteran's Home to give our thanks.

    My wife, who deals with stress by baking, had filled my second suitcase with goodies for the staff and residents. We carried the containers of food in and took the elevator to the ground floor....Dad's floor.

    The nurses and staff hugged and kissed us both and, after I told them how much we appreciated the loving care given to my father, started telling us how privileged they were to have known him. They told stories about his initiating "happy hour" and promised that the tradition will continue. One of the staff said she was so glad she had purchased one of his paintings and h0w it makes her feel good every time she looks at it.

    As we were leaving we took the elevat0r back to the main floor. There, in the entry way beneath the bulletin board and menu for the day, sat a five by seven framed photograph of Dad in a place of honor on a table.

    It's hard not to feel emotional after that visit.

    They take their "Hero's" seriously.

    In most nursing/retirement homes deaths of the residents is quiet and passed over quickly- they don't want other residents to dwell on the shortness of their time left; or that they could be next.

    Veterans want to remember and be remembered...

    May it always be so.


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