The silence will be deafening

Published 6:08 am Thursday, May 13, 2010

My friend, Truman Moen, is 80-something years old and still Army strong.

He served in the U.S. Army, during World War II and was one of the veterans to make an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., recently to see the WWII Veterans Memorial.

He told me about his trip a couple Sundays ago at church, during the coffee and fellowship hour.

It was a great story told by Truman, full of details and memories. He was obviously proud to have made the trip with fellow WWII veterans. Also relieved.

Church is where most of them congregate today. Gravesites at cemeteries, too.

There’s no denying their time has come. They are dying. Can’t stop Father Time.

Rest in peace, I say. Honor and dignity, too. Every one of them, but let their stories continue to be heard. They’re all good.

Nobody is more patriotic than a veteran.

Van T. Barfoot made headlines in February, when the 90-year-old U.S. Army veteran got in trouble with his Virginia neighborhood association for erecting a 21-foot pole on his property to fly the American flag. The association threatened to take him to court if he did not remove the pole, which, the association said, violated aesthetic guidelines in the Richmond, VA suburb.

Go figure.

Barfoot has been threatened before. During WWII, he earned the Medal of Honor, when he took out a machine gun nest all by himself, when his platoon came under fire during an assault by Germans near Carano, Italy in May 1944.

When the Germans sent three tanks to re-take their machine gun position, Barfoot stopped the tanks with a bazooka and stopped the Nazi soldiers’ advance.

You can look it up.

Barfoot also won the Purple Heart and other service decorations for heroism and served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a Colonel in 1974.

So when the Florida neighborhood associations president, Glenn Wilson, told him to take down his flag pole and remove it from his front yard, he might have suggested he knew a better place to put it, but the veterans held firm and stood his ground.

Virginia’s congressional delegation became involved when the story surfaced in the media and then the White House.

The neighborhood association surrendered to Barfoot and withdrew its threats to take him to court over the flagpole in his front yard.

Old Glory is still flying today, and this veteran has another story to tell how he served his country just by flying the flag.

My guess he is one of those Americans who makes people feel nervous, when they are spotted talking, during the singing of the National Anthem or, worse yet, leaving their caps on.

Don’t even think about singing this song in anything but English when these veterans are listening.

They will be out in force later this month. Telling their stories to whomever will listen, watching to see if what they fought for is understood.

Memorial Day is coming, but first there’s Veterans Sunday at Grace Lutheran Church in Austin.

It happens this Sunday, beginning 9:30 a.m. There will be one service only.

Dr. Jan Meyer of Lanesboro will deliver the message. She has accompanied veterans on Honor Flights to Washington, D.C.

Both active duty and retired veterans are encouraged to attend. Wear your uniforms if you like, vets.

There will be food and fellowship in the church social hall following the service that honors veterans of all U.S. Armed Forces.

Local color guards will present the colors. The church organist will play every military service’s signature song.

I know my friend, Truman Moen, will be there. Sadly, so many, many comrades wont. All those names on all the memorial walls will take special places in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.

Veterans Sunday will be good practice for what is to come.

Take two weeks off to reflect before marching with veterans Monday, May 31, Memorial Day.

It will be time to stop talking, take off caps, place hands over hearts and try to look the flag in the eye and say thanks, veterans.

Then, listen to their stories. Truman’s of pride and relief to have seen the WWII Veterans Memorial so late in his life and the Virginia veteran’s tale of the flag that embarrassed somebody.

All the stories no matter how inconsequential or how humbling.

Soon, all too soon, in fact, their stories will go untold and the silence will be deafening.