The last Christmas I spent with him (and I didn't know it would be my last at the time), I gave him a gift. The city of Cupertino has a memorial in the park where pavers can be purchased in honor of those who have served in the military. I wanted to, in a way, immortalize my dad and let him know what his service meant and what he meant to our family. So, I surprised him with a paver that had his name, rank, the years he served, and the sentiment, "We love you, Papa" engraved on it. He was a little overwhelmed by the gesture and mentioned what a meaningful gift it was.
Not a month and a half later, I pulled up to the cemetery and saw his casket draped with an American flag, and I was proud. As part of the ceremony, that flag would be presented to a loved one and the U.S. Navy representatives asked who they should give it to since Mom was no longer with us. My first thought was, "Which sister should I give it to?" I was trying to keep the peace, but in a moment of positive selfishness, I said, "Give it to me."
The moment came in the ceremony where the Navy men folded the flag and a bugler played the familiar and emotion evoking notes of "Taps." The only thing that could be heard was that bugle and quiet cries, yet it was such a peaceful moment. I had only witnessed these kinds of scenes in movies, but this tribute was for my dad. It was in real time and there was no way to stop the tears. Then the representative walked up to me, handed me the flag and expressed their appreciation on behalf of the President and the United States Navy for my dad's service. Then he saluted.
This morning in church at they close of a wonderfully moving Memorial Day service, a lone bugler stood up and played "Taps," and I was instantly transported back to a very peaceful moment in a quiet cemetery on a slightly overcast day, and I was grateful. Thank you, Dad, for your service to our country. And thank you to all who have served and especially to those who gave all.