A Memorial Day Memory

by Michael Ransom

Reading time: 3 minutes

On Memorial Day eighteen years ago, I decided at the last minute to drive to my home town, Clear Lake, Iowa, for their celebration. They gather at the Sea Wall by the lake for opening ceremonies and then convene again about a mile away at Oakwood Cemetery for readings, music, and a guest speaker.

         Clear Lake, Iowa

         Clear Lake, Iowa

I arrived as the ceremony was about to begin, so Dad didn’t know I was there. It was a gorgeous spring morning—the sky was bright blue, the lake calm, the air warm. A large crowd had formed by the Yacht Club, and I watched from about a block away. The minister from the Congregational Church provided opening remarks and a prayer, and Dad’s long-time friend Bud Heitland, representing the Navy, placed a wreath on the water.

Dad was “in charge” of music. He pressed Play on the VFW boom box, which should have started a recording of the Star-Spangled Banner. There was only silence. He pressed Play again. More silence. Then he began to fumble with the wires and connectors and speakers with those large, arthritic hands of his. Everyone was waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the music to begin. I tried to remain calm as Dad fiddled with those little wires and buttons. It was one of those times when seconds seemed like minutes. Just as the crowd was becoming a bit uneasy, the anthem blared from the loudspeakers.

When the music began, Dad stood at attention and saluted the flag as it was raised up the flagpole. He was apart from the crowd, dressed in his VFW blazer and cap. As he stood there amidst such a picturesque scene, I realized how much about Dad this moment symbolized—the town, country, and God he loved and served.

                 Jim Ransom

                 Jim Ransom

The minister’s invocation centered on my favorite Bible passage, Micah 6:8.  Here the question is posed: And what does the Lord God require of you? The answer: To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Those few words say much about Dad.

Regarding justice, Dad served in World War II (combat in Okinawa) and the Korean War, doing his part to bring peace to a troubled world.  Throughout his life, he spoke up for what he felt was right, at times disagreeing with others who had differing opinions, but not letting those differences end friendships.

Regarding mercy, I remember what Dad said about his mother: “She taught me to be kind and gentle.”

Regarding humility, the man was selfless. He was named Clear Lake’s Citizen of the Year in 1995. What an honor. His acceptance speech at the ceremony in his honor amounted to two words: THANK and YOU.  He let his actions speak for him.

Dad passed away in 2016. His best friend, Bud Heitland, died earlier this month. Whenever I drive past the Sea Wall by the lake, I think of them and that Memorial Day long ago.  

Note: See the Ransom Notes page of my website (www.mransomwriter.com) for additional posts.