May 26, 2007
Cemetery Escort Duty
I just wanted to get the day over with
and go down to Smokey's for a few cold
ones. Sneaking a look at my watch,
I saw the time, 1655. Five minutes to go
before the cemetery gates are closed for
the day. Full dress was hot in the
August sun. Oklahoma summertime was as bad as ever --
the heat and humidity at
the same level -- both too high.
I saw the car pull into the drive, '69
or '70 model Cadillac Deville, looked
factory-new. It pulled into the
parking lot at a snail's pace.
An old woman got out so slow I thought
she was paralyzed. She had a cane and a
sheaf of flowers, about four or five
bunches as best I could tell. I couldn't help
myself. The thought came unwanted,
and left a slightly bitter taste: "She's going
to spend an hour, and for this old
soldier my hip hurts like hell and I'm ready to
get out of here right now!"
But for this day my duty was to assist
anyone coming in. Kevin would lock the "In"
gate and if I could hurry the old biddy
along , we might make the last half of happy
hour at Smokey's.
I broke Post Attention. My hip made
gritty noises when I took the first step and
the pain went up a notch. I must
have made a real military sight; middle-aged man
with a small pot-gut and half a limp, in
Marine Full Dress Uniform, which had lost
its razor crease about 30 minutes after
I began the watch at the cemetery.
I stopped in front of her, halfway up
the walk. She looked up at me with an old
woman's squint. "Ma'am, may I
assist you in any way?"
She took long enough to answer.
"Yes, son. Can you carry these flowers? I seem
to be moving a tad slow these
"My pleasure Ma'am."
Well, it wasn't too much of a lie.
She looked again. "Marine,
where were you stationed?"
Ground-pounder. '69 to '71."
She looked at me closer.
"Wounded in action, I see. Well done, Marine. I'll be as
quick as I can."
I lied a little bigger "No hurry,
She smiled, and winked at me. "Son,
I'm 85-years old and I can tell a lie from a
long way off. Let's get this
done. Might be the last time I can do this.
My name's Joanne Wieserman, and I've a
few Marines I'd like to see one more
"Yes, Ma'am. At your
She headed for the World War I section,
stopping at a stone. She picked one of
the bunches out of my arm and laid it on
top of the stone. She murmured something
I couldn't quite make out. The
name on the marble was Donald S. Davidson, USMC,
She turned away and made a straight line
for the World War II section, stopping
at one stone. I saw a tear slowly
tracking its way down her cheek.
She put a bunch on a stone; the name was
Stephen X. Davidson, USMC, 1943.
She went up the row a ways and laid
another bunch on a stone, Stanley J.
Wieserman USMC , 1944.
She paused for a second, "Two more,
son, and we'll be done." I almost didn't say
anything, but, "Yes, Ma'am.
Take your time." She looked confused. "Where's the
son? I seem to have lost my way." I pointed with my
"That way, Ma'am."
"Oh!" She chuckled quietly. "Son, me and old age
ain't too friendly."
She headed down the walk I'd pointed
at. She stopped at a couple of stones
before she found the ones she
wanted. She placed a bunch on Larry Wieserman
USMC, 1968, and the last on Darrel
Wieserman USMC, 1970.
She stood there and murmured a few words
I still couldn't make out.
"OK, son, I'm finished. Get
me back to my car and you can go home."
"Yes, Ma'am. If I may ask,
were those your kinfolk ?"
She paused. "Yes, Donald
Davidson was my father; Stephen was my uncle; Stanley
was my husband; Larry and Darrel were
our sons. All killed in action, all Marines."
She stopped, whether she had finished,
or couldn't finish, I don't know. She
made her way to her car, slowly, and
I waited for a polite distance to come
between us and then double-timed it over
to Kevin waiting by the car.
"Get to the "Out"-gate quick. I have something I've
got to do."
Kevin started to say something but saw
the look I gave him. He broke the rules to
get us there down the service
road. We beat her. She hadn't made it around the
"Kevin, stand to attention next to
the gate post. Follow my lead." I humped it
across the drive to the other post.
When the Cadillac came puttering around
from the hedges and began the short
straight traverse to the gate, I called
in my best gunny's voice: "TehenHut!
I have to hand it to Kevin, he never
blinked an eye; full dress attention and a salute
that would make his DI proud. She
drove through that gate with two old worn-out
soldiers giving her a send off she
deserved, for service rendered to her country,
and for knowing Duty, Honor and
I am not sure, but I think I saw a
salute returned from that Cadillac.