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Foster: Farewell to two East Texas heroes

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John Foster

John Foster

Most Americans are happy that the election cycle is receding in memory except for the impeachment trial that once again failed to convict a worthy candidate. Let’s hope the judicial process brings Donald Trump the punishment he truly deserves for inciting riot and insurrection against the U.S. Constitution.

Now before my critics get a twitter about that statement to tone down my rhetoric, I literally chuckled at the letter from a writer who actually counted the words critical of Trump in my last column. To counter those critics, I did receive a couple of complimentary emails, so I feel my piece was fair and balanced, to borrow a phrase from the suddenly diminished Fox News.

Nevertheless, I want to change the topic to a slice of life in my hometown of Carthage. Two friends of long-standing passed away a couple of weeks ago, and both interments were planned on the same day. Both were Navy veterans, including a 96-year-old World War II pilot.

As commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, I make a point to attend the funeral or visitation of our members and other veterans I happen to know. The first service was at a local cemetery, and as I arrived, I noticed two young ladies in Navy dress blues who were the honor guard assigned to both burials.

Before the ceremony began, I spoke briefly to them and thanked them for their service. One sailor performed taps to begin the ceremony and then joined the other sailor to fold the U.S. flag draped over the casket. The flag was solemnly presented to surviving family members to conclude their part in the rites.

I later spoke to them after the ceremony and asked them if I could treat them to lunch before the second service began that afternoon. They readily agreed, so we dined at a local Mexican food restaurant. As you can image, the uniformed ladies gathered a lot of eyeballs from other patrons.

I left a tip on the table and carried the ticket to the cashier who explained that someone had paid for our lunch. That was a nice surprise, but not uncommon for the patriotic folks in Panola County. The sailors were equally surprised when I explained what had happened. So if the generous person(s) who paid for our lunch happens to read this, we thank you.

We had about an hour before the second service began, so I suggested that we make a quick visit to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, located a few blocks from the downtown square. I introduced the sailors to Tommy Ritter Smith, who is the president of the local chamber of commerce and museum director.

The young ladies had only enough time for a cursory look at the exhibits so I encouraged them to spend more time there if they make a return trip to Carthage. As we started our cars to return to the cemetery, two police cars sped into the parking lot. Amazingly, I noticed they were chasing a good-sized calf that was rumbling down Panola Street, the main drag in Carthage.

Soon another police car pulled in and the officers were trying to corral the calf at the rear of the parking lot without a lot of success. Remembering that I had a 25-foot rope in my pickup, I pulled it out and ran toward one of the officers and asked if he wanted to use it. He said yes, so I tossed it to him as he quickly returned to the chase. About that time, the city’s animal control officer arrived and joined the effort to corral the calf.

I don’t expect to see that rope again, but it went to a good cause. In fact, the officer should keep it in his unit if the occasion arises again.

Back at the cemetery, one of the sailors asked if I would use her cell phone to snap a few photos of the next ceremony from an inconspicuous location. The ceremony was conducted in good order as the honor guard performed with dignity and precision.

Afterwards, we exchanged names and emails so they could send me some of the photos. Although they belong to a Navy detachment in Shreveport, both were returning to their home towns, one in eastern Louisiana and the other in Arkansas.

God bless them and all the men and women in military uniforms who guard the gates of freedom for us every day.

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— John D. Foster is a Carthage resident and regular contributor to the Saturday Forum. Email jandmfoster@yahoo.com.

Today's Bible verse

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.”

Romans 8:9

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