Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Freedom is not Free
This blog is being done in the Memory of my cousin John M. Runkle Jr. who was killed while serving his country in Afghanistan on May 26, 2011. See his information at West Point.
"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down
his life for his friends" John 15:13
I am not in the military and I don't pretend to know anything about the meaning of the things that they do. But after attending the calling hours yesterday and the funeral today of someone killed in action it has given me so much respect for these men and women. The parade alone on Monday as they moved his body from the local air force base to the funeral home was just staggering. Men, women, and children lined the streets all along the route in every town along the way. Police, fire fighters, military, and civilians came out to honor him. Yesterday while driving to the funeral home I was overcome with emotion when I saw the flags. They lined the highway all the way until the funeral home. People had signs in their lawns and one even had their combine covered in a banner, flag, and picture of John. I have never seen anything like this before. My kids were so amazed at all the flags.
Today was the funeral. It was truly humbling to be there. The men and women of the military show so much respect and honor to each other. It was an amazing site to see. The army official who presented John's parents with all of his medals said that he has done many funerals and never saw one this big. He said this was a testament of John's character. Our family alone is huge. John was my mom's cousin's son. So he was a 2nd cousin. But we all grew up together. We did things together and all had so much fun at the reunions each year. All the family members filled an entire high school gymnasium floor. Friends were seated in the bleachers. The funeral itself was very moving but the ride to the cemetery my kids and I will never forget.
All long the way people were standing along the roadside. Flags in their hands, hands over their heart, and some stood at attention and saluted. Most of this trip was off the beaten path but it did not matter. People were stopped along the road in their cars, they got out and stood with their hands over their hearts honoring John's sacrifice. Every intersection was guarded with police, fire fighters, and ambulances. They were standing outside their vehicles at attention. When we passed fire trucks all the firemen were lined up in a straight line at attention. When we went on the highway people were even standing on overpasses with flags and their hands over their hearts. The trip to the cemetery took an hour. It wasn't real far away but the procession was about 2 1/2 miles long. There were at least 200 cars in the procession. It was the most moving thing I have ever seen. I did not know that this ever happened. It was hard to drive when I had tears streaming down my face for an hour.
They layed John to rest in a military cemetery complete with the gun salute and the playing of taps. I am so honored that I could be there. I have a new found respect for the military and the job that they do. I have a new found respect for the police and fire fighters as well. Their comradely is truly amazing. This was truly a very moving experience and one that I will never forget. It was a huge reminder for me that our freedom is not free. I explained this to my kids as well. Why John was willing to give his life so that we could live in a free country. Thank you John for your sacrifice.
Please pray for his parents and siblings that he left behind. Please pray for the extended family as well. There are so many Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents and Friends that are deeply feeling this loss. We do find comfort in knowing that John was saved and is in Heaven now. Thank you for the job well done, Be Thou At Peace.