Taps was played yesterday at our church service as images of military serviceman of all generations flashed momentarily on the large screen ahead. We stood in respect during this homage and I found myself to be quite emotional. It happens on occasion during the recalling of those who have served our nation for our freedom. Many enlisted in my own family and from our neighborhood but I can only recall a few who were actually sent off to combat duty during the Vietnam era.
I was a starry eyed, awkward 14 year old when my big brother John enlisted in 1968. He and two neighborhood friends, Tom Berkfield (in photo) and Butch Cirino also went off to boot camp in the summer of 1968. I didn't know Butch well, if at all, but I sure knew who Tom was as I recall having a huge crush on him. He was always kind to this doting teeny-bopper and when he was in uniform, I thought he could hear my heart beat!! 14 year old girls fall easily for a man in uniform! Following basic training my brother was assigned to a base in California while his friends were shipped off to war. That winter dear young Tom was brought back in a body bag. I remember being devastated but from a distance. It was nearly impossible to absorb his young death, this reality of war. I was ill when his funeral was occurring so I never had a chance to go to his wake or the service; the process of grieving was never complete.
Now, it seems as I've worked through this recovery of my life, I am learning to "unstuff" feelings, emotions and unfinished sorrow. When Taps was played yesterday, I wept for Tom in a new, healing way and with a heart of thanksgiving once again for one of 58,226 lives lost in service during the Vietnam war. I also thought with a thankful heart of the men, (my three brothers, my father and my uncles in particular) and women who served during all the other wars and for those who now honorably serve and protect night and day.
As I memorialize Thomas D Berkfield in a minimal way today, this message is meant for all. May God bless the families today, that were forced to a goodbye much too soon. Teach your children about the price paid and why we honor and respect those who served and are serving no matter how you feel about war itself. Today may be full of shopping, bar-b-ques or parties but please pause for a moment to reflect on those who gave, and those who are still giving, their all.
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hill
from the sky.
All is well, safely rest.
God is nigh.
Thanks and praise, for our days
'neath the sun, 'neath the stars
'neath the sky
As we go, this we know, God is nigh
Rest in peace.
(as seen on the Vietnam "Moving Wall")