Thursday, October 18, 2007

Semper Fidelis

Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference. The Marines don't have that problem.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1985, as inscribed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps

Presentation of the flagI spent a few days in the Washington, D.C. area last week to mourn the loss of my uncle, Col. William L. "Moose" Traynor, USMC (Retired). As often happens, I learned a lot more about my uncle at his funeral than I ever knew about him while he was alive.

My Uncle Moose was a daring Marine aviator in three wars (from F4U Corsairs to A-6 Intruders, from land and from three aircraft carriers), a patriot, a scholar, loving father and husband, golfer, New York Times Crossword Puzzle fan, and McGovern Democrat. He was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in the family plot, with full military honors provided by a Marine escort platoon and band, led by a flag-draped caisson and riderless horse. I have never before seen so many Marines in dress uniforms in one place.

As the funeral procession reached the grave site on that sunny, unusually warm Virginia afternoon, the band played a somber rendition of the Marine Corps Hymn. The service included three rifle volleys by a seven-man rifle team, the playing of "Taps," the ritual folding of the American flag by the Marine pallbearers as the band played the Navy Hymn, and the presentation of this flag with the words:
On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to Country and Corps.

It was a very moving and fitting burial service.

After the burial, there was a reception at the Fort Meyer Officer's Club, on the Army base adjacent to Arlington Cemetery. Many ex-Marines from VMA-121, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121, joined family and friends in celebrating Moose's life.

The previous day, I had the opportunity to tour the year-old National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, about a half-hour south of Arlington near Marine Corps Base Quantico (where Moose was once stationed). I highly recommend a visit to this fitting tribute to the Corps.

After last week, I have an increased appreciation for these Marine warriors who so selflessly protect and serve our nation. As the motto of the First Marine Division says, there is "No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy" than the United States Marine Corps.

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