Lyle veteran explains the bond to students

Published 7:17 am Monday, November 13, 2017

You could say the image is etched in his mind. It will never go away.

I think’s it’s more accurate to say it is part of his heart, his soul.

Jamie Goebel, Lyle Public School’s principal for grades 7-12, told the story in front of two bleacher sections full of students and two rows of veterans seated on folding chairs on the gymnasium floor. They came to this assembly two days before Veterans Day.

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Goebel was a member of the  Army Ceremonial Unit that has duties at Arlington National Cemetery. It had a profound impact on him, he said.

There are more than 400,000 graves of service members in the cemetery, he said. His unit took part in hundreds of military funerals. One never leaves him.

As his part of the unit finished firing a salute, they watched the folding of the American flag that had been draped over the coffin of a father.

The folding is an intense moment among many in  such funerals. The honor guard lifts and snaps the flag firm and then folds it into a triangle to present to the fallen’s family — a symbol of appreciation for their loved one’s honorable and faithful service.

Goebel asked the school gathering to picture all this, how on a beautiful spring day when students and their families across the nation were getting ready for summer vacation, a soldier was leaning forward with his arms extended, holding that flag in front of a  young boy and girl.  The image will never leave him.

There is more to it, however  — much deeper.

“For many veterans, it’s a challenging day,” Goebel said of Veterans Day, “because it reminds them of how their buddies never made it  home.”

He tried to explain how in service to their country, service members over generations have come from so many different upbringings, faiths, races, creeds and so on. They knew — they had to know — they could count on each other. And away from their friends and loved ones they shared their stories —whether about a tractor or a girlfriend. It really didn’t matter what. All that enriched a bond all veterans share with the living and the dead.

In describing guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, particuarly at night, Goebel said:  “I knew nothing of where they grew up, the name of their high school sweetheart, their dreams, but still I knew they fought for our nation to allow you and I to sleep peacefully. These were my brothers.”
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