There was a graveside service for William Berry yesterday.
A couple hundred people showed up.
I’m used to services for people these days. We had thirteen at our church last year. I helpd run sound or video for most of them. I even helped lead one of them.
There was something different about this service.
Nearly 40 children showed up. They sang the national anthem, young voices carrying clearly in cool cemetery air. There was a bagpipe and trumpets and two groups of veterans.
The family sat in the front row, at least some of them, Others stood scattered through the crowd, coming to the front at one point when their names were called. We heard about his life. We honored his memory.
All those pieces, while nice, weren’ t what made this service different. Unlike most of the services I helped with last year, William Berry’s wife didn’t show up. His kids weren’t there either. None of his friends even came.
I suppose they could be excused. William Berry died in 1842.He died in January that year. He was buried in a corner of the Old Leo Cemetery. At the time, it probably wasn’ t the Old Leo Cemetery. In fact, his grave was pretty early.
The service was to dedicate a grave marker for Berry on behalf of the DAR. William Berry, Private William Berry, was a volunteer from Rockbridge Virginia when he watched General Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown. October 19, this was, in 1781. (That would be 228 years ago.) He eventually moved to Kentucky, then Ohio, and finally to Cedar Creek, Indiana. He died there. He was buried. And no one from the people who want to know where the graves of Revolutionary War veterans are buried knew where the grave was until a year ago.
So they had a service yesterday to dedicate a new marker. Around the stone were eight flags, representing the eight people from living generations who have been in the military. In the middle of the picture is a stocking cap. The man under the cap, standing near the back of the crowd, looking matter-of-fact, is one of William Berry’s great-greats. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, a pivital point in World War Two, known, in part, for being fought in one of the coldest winters in Europe.
William, I’m guessing, might have been surprised at the crowd, particularly honoring his military service, the military service of a private. I’m pretty sure his funeral was much smaller. He might have been pleased to know that forty kids would sing the anthem of a country that didn’t exist when he was their age. He would have been pleased that his kids grew up well, serving their country, living their lives, showing up to say “hey” at the dedication, and then going back to raising families, living lives, settling the future.
Just like William Berry.