OK… maybe not everybody wants to know I’m going through some personal stuff lately. But here goes. If you don’t want to know, stop reading now.
As some of you know, my dad passed away. He died officially on the 15th. How’s that for paying the ultimate tax! Well he went heavily medicated and peacefully. He was 87 years old. I am now officially an orphan. All of my older relatives have passed away except for a cousin and my dad’s sister who is also in her 80’s.
Though I’m not the executor of the estate, I am trying to do my part to help arrange for a memorial service for my dad. Most recently my job has been to obtain a burial flag because he’s having a military send off. Someone should write some directions for this stuff since nobody seems to be in agreement for what is needed or who to get it from –even the people who do it all the time.
The fellow who is officiating the military ceremony is from the DFW. He told me I needed to find his DD214 (evidence of honorary discharge from the military). Well, Houston we have a problem! All of his important documents are locked up in a safe deposit box. My brother (who is the executor) has applied for power of attorney, but that won’t come through before my dad’s service which is scheduled for May 8. So, I had to dig through my dad’s papers to find something that would have his military service serial number. It took a while, but I finally found a folder in a file called “mementoes” hidden away in a metal box in the back of his closet. I have to say, he was such an organized man and never threw away much of anything. There were love letters bundled that he’d received from my mom. (Probably every one she’d ever written.) There were notes and home-made cards that he’d received from us kids. There was even a little tiny handmade envelop with a note in it that he had written when he was little to his dad and his grandfather. Judging by the handwriting I’m guessing he was about seven or eight at the time.
Finally, there was a plain brown, well-worn letter sized envelope. In it were my dad’s “orders” marked CLASSIFIED at the top. (He’d saved every one.) A letter thanking him for his service signed (for real –not a stamp) from President Harry Truman. And a record of his service that showed when he entered the service, what he did while he was there, medals he earned, when he was discharged, and (thankfully) his serial number. Dad was in the Army Air Corps and served as a first lieutenant as a pilot in the Pacific Theater. My whole life I grew up hearing stories about trips to China, Japan, Okinawa, Guam and The Philippines. Of his 87 years, this period was from 1943 to 1946. It was that important to him. In his later years, he often wore a bill cap that said “WWII” on it and was just what was needed to strike up conversations with other vets –especially the newer ones having recently served in the Gulf. He had his pilot’s wings attached to it, so of course there was a lot of talk about airplanes and flying. When he was in his early 70’s my mom gave him a glider ride for his birthday. He talked about it for years!
So with paper in hand, I went to the post office (as directed by the DFW guy) to claim the flag that would be used in the service. Wasn’t so surprised when the clerk said I had to have a form filled out (not the DD214) that came from the Veteran’s Administration. She said I could also get one from the mortuary where he had been cremated. Since I didn’t know exactly where that was, I went to the local vets hospital. Clearly, they didn’t get that request very often –actually never. “It’s a veteran’s form!” I said to the clerk, “Certainly you must have them somewhere!” After several minutes, he returned with papers in hand –two copies in fact (in case I screwed up the first one I guess) and a mile-long list of rules regarding the handling of the flag. (I must really look like an idiot ‘cause there were two copies of that too!)
My next stop was to Fed-Ex Kinkos to make copies of the service record as it was required to be attached to the form.
Then back to the post office I went. This time the clerk that waited on me was a woman who clearly had never had a burial flag request before. She was agitated and didn’t know quite what to do. The clerk next to her said, “You sign and date it then she does. Then you go get the flag.” After the signing ordeal, I said “You’ll need this service record to attach to the form.” "Oh nooo," she replied. “I don need dat.” “Oh yes you do!” I answered. “See it says so right on this form you just signed! Go ahead and take it, you might as well since I went to the trouble to make it for you! It can’t hurt.” She took the papers and retreated into the back room and appeared with a smile on her face and a box. Handing it to me as if it were a box of chocolates, she said “Enjoy!” Okay, not the kind of comment I would have expected, but at least I finally got the flag.