General Cliff Capps was a member of my church in Northbrook. A one star general, he served in the European campaign in 1945. He was 18 years old when the war ended and saw more than any man, young or old, should have to experience. I wrote him this letter on
Memorial Day, 2018.
When Barbara and I were in Washington, D.C. last October we walked the length of the mall. We came to the Vietnam memorial and as I always do when I go there, I searched for the name "Jerry Hunnyecutt" . Jerry was a high school pal. His father was our pastor in Winston-Salem, N.C. Jerry was shot down while flying an F4C over North Vietnam in November 10, 1967. His remains were not found and returned to the states until September, 1989.
After that we walked the short distance toward the Lincoln Memorial. Sitting on benches and wheelchairs in the shade were a lot of old men along with younger men and women as their chaperones. Without asking I knew who they were but I did want to know where they were from. They all were part of an honor flight from Minneapolis for World War II veterans. It was very moving just to see them there, all of them old and frail. I could just imagine how hard it was for them to get out of bed, make it to the airport, fly to Washington and get on a bus to get to the Lincoln Memorial. I spoke to a couple of the men. I said, "Thank you for your service to our country."
I know it’s trite but what else can you say when you feel such profound gratitude? I said to one man,"I wish my father were still alive to be here today. He fought with General Patton’s Third Army in France in 1944 and 1945. But I’m glad you are here."
We left the old soldiers behind and climbed the 58 steps from the plaza to the chamber. You see old Abe, gazing across the 2.3 miles to the capitol building. Two of his famous speeches are inscribed on the wall in the chamber. On the south wall is the Gettysburg Address. On the north wall is the II Inaugural Address, which ends with these 75 words: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations"
Cliff, you and millions of others, have lived and died for the ideals expressed in the II Inaugural Address. You have left a legacy for our nation which has enabled us to have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and freedom of assembly. I thank you. We thank you. You are an honest-to-goodness, died-in-the-wool American hero. I am privileged to know you and call you my friend.
With every blessing,
Terry V. Swicegood
Prayer for Memorial Day
God, we come with Taps in our hearts
remembering those who have died for others,
soldiers, sailors, air corps, in this country and around the globe.
remembering those who risk life for others,
coast guard, firefighters, law enforcement personnel,
both near and far away,
remembering those who go forth
in emergency response, disaster relief,
and aid to victims of war,
remembering those who witness for justice
in the face of opposition,
and remembering our own losses B
some, fresh wounds,
some, long-familiar sadnesses.
Day is come, not just one,
but a year full of dawns
in the east.
While some rest, we are blest,
given peace. Amen.