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In the Chapel

Posted by [email protected] on November 14, 2016 at 12:05 AM

For several years, I have traveled across the Midwestern United States presenting my program Duty, Honor and Country to honor our military veterans. Providing songs and stories from the American Revolution to this current era in Afghanistan, audiences have numbered in the hundreds or as intimate as 15.


This month had already been full of amazing opportunities to present the program and meet unforgettable heroes, like the Coast Guard veterans in Lake County, Ohio and a veteran name Paul in Franklin County who shared his memorabilia with our audience. There he stood proudly in front of the B17 he flew in the war in an enlarged photograph. His pal Alex and other resident veterans shared stories of how their families of five or more brothers all went to war and a vet who said his name was John. He didn’t think he’d make it back from Vietnam, but here he was with us.


On November 12th, I was invited to present Duty, Honor and Country in a retirement community in another location in Columbus, Ohio. Their activity director had scheduled three other events and ceremonies that day with my program as the finale. When I arrived to set up and sound check, I overheard a resident say that she had had enough veteran’s ceremonies and wanted to play bingo instead. They decided that the activity room would not be available for my program due to bingo and college football on television. My event location was changed to the chapel on the third floor. To date, it would be one of the most solemn and unique presentations I would have the privilege of providing.


An announcement was made over the loud speaker that Duty, Honor and Country would begin at 2pm and bingo at the same time. No one came to introduce me and no more announcements were made.. For my opening, the room was empty. Suddenly, one man entered the chapel and sat down in the front row close to me. He said his name was John and that he served in World War II. He told me that he fought in France, Germany and Czechoslovakia. “I was one of the lucky ones,” he said, “I made it home safe and sound.”


I shared my story about Irving Berlin and the moment when his mother first saw the Statue of Liberty and John sang along to God Bless America. We talked about the Civil War. Alone in the chapel with streaks of sunshine glistening through the stained glass, John and I sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, a medley of the U.S. Armed Forces themes and Amazing Grace. Then, he had to go and reached out to shake my hand.


“Thank you so much,” he said with tears in his eyes, “this was lovely, what a tribute.”

“It was truly my honor today, John,” I replied. “Thank you for your service and dedication to our country.”

“God bless you,” he smiled.


 

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