The U.S. Army has maintained a presence in the Alamo City since 1845. During that time, the installation has performed five distinct and important roles: that of a headquarters, logistical base, mobilization and training site, garrison and provider of medical support.
At first, the Army leased facilities in the City of San Antonio, including the Alamo. In fact, the Army repaired the Alamo structure and added a roof so it could be used as a headquarters.
In 1876, the Army began to move its facilities to the present site of Fort Sam Houston upon completion of the Quadrangle. The post has since increased in size from the original 92 acres donated to the Army by the city, to approximately 3,000 acres today.(Note: This blurb is for you detail people; you know who you are, the type that stop to read every historical marker. Dad, you can skip this & just let Mom read it). As we waited for the service to begin, I showed the girls some of the grave markers. Unlike a civilian cemetery with a variety of grave markers, this cemetery (and I guess all US Military cemeteries) have very neat rows of white grave markers (tombstones). I don't know about other military cemeteries, but at Ft. Sam, when a soldier is buried, his wife (or now with more women, I guess her husband) can be buried in the same spot. They dig a very deep hole for the first grave, then put the 2nd casket on top when the time comes. As we looked at the dates, it was fascinating to see that some of the people in the area where we were had been born in the 1800's! The very first one I saw was a man who died on March 7, 1965. The reason the date stood out is that was 8 days before I was born. On another marker, the man's wife lived over 40 years after her husband died.
Back to our service. I can't remember which came first, the flag folding or the 21 gun salute (if you've never been to a military funeral, it's 7 guns shot 3 times each). Bethany pointed out that the men with the guns looked "really old." I think they were retired military. We had been told there could be no gun salute during wartime. Apparently, that was not true. The funeral home told us that, not Ft. Sam, so I guess they had the wrong info. Bethany was prepared & covered her ears. After the first round of fire, I covered my ears! Later she said, "I could FEEL it when they shot." Phil, on the other hand said, "That was COOL! That was some serious ammunition they used in those guns!" Then they played Taps. That made me teary. When they folded the flag, then presented it, the man spoke directly to Ruth, and even though he does this time and again daily, he was so sincere as he spoke the words. They have chosen the right man for this job. I don't know if he is a pastor/chaplain, but he did have on a ring with a cross on one hand and I think the pastor of Ruth's church who was there had the same ring on.
Ruth's pastor read the service from a well worn book he had. It was mainly a reading of God's Word pertaining to our new life in Heaven if we have trusted in Christ as our Savior. Death is not final, but the beginning of a perfect life.
After they closed the service, we looked over & saw a black wagon across the cemetery with black horses, then more black horses behind it. The girls & I walked to the man who conducted the military part & asked what the horses did & if that would carry the casket. He looked at the GIRLS and spoke to THEM as he explained it in a way THEY could understand. I thought that was very kind that he addressed them. He said they have 4 horses and 3 riders. He said on the 4th horse, they put a pair of boots on backwards. He said it is like the person "who the service is for" (he didn't use the word died, I noticed, which was interesting) is invisible. He explained that this person was a general, an important man in the army (I know all are important in the army, but for them that was the best explanation), and this was like he was leading his troops for the last time with the boots facing towards them. I asked if the horses were part of the army & he said, "Yes. And they probably live better than you & I do!" LOL!
A little special thing God did was to send birds to sing through the service. Ruth loves birds & Bill had hung at least 30 birdhouses in their backyard. As long as he was able, he would put birdfeed out & in the spring/summer feed the hummingbirds. How fitting that the birds would sing so sweetly. It wasn't the annoying "Caw-caw" but really pretty bird songs. The military man who conducted this service told us that he thought about mentioning the birds singing, but didn't know our family, so didn't want to say something inappropriate. He said he learns a lot about the person who has passed away by the way the family and friends are. He said some are very somber, and he thinks the person must have been a very serious person. Then others have grandkids running around and no one is fussing at them to be still, and he thinks this must have been a grandmother or grandfather who loved having children around.
After the service we enjoyed a nice lunch at Kim Tran, a Vietnamese restaurant. When Phil & I were dating, he introduced me to Vietnamese Cuisine. Though, he only introduced me to one dish and we just stick with it: Chicken Lemon Grass with rice and spring rolls. This is a real treat for me because the Vietnamese cooking doesn't use soy sauce (which is typically made of wheat) or egg roll wrappers (also made of wheat), but instead uses fish sauce and rice paper wrappers.
Ruth and Natalie went with me to Hobby Lobby. We found that the flag display boxes were on sale for 50% off! What perfect timing. I would like to have a small piece of brass embossed to put on the flag case. Phil took Ruth home. The girls & I will be delivering Girl Scout Cookies tomorrow and CLEANING. This poor house is just a disaster. I don't know that it can ever be completely organized with all of our stuff, but we will attempt to put a dent in the mess. I think getting the Christmas things into the garage might be a good start!
This is a very long post. Sorry for being so lengthy, but there was so much to tell about today.