Since I was in the Navy, I heard the taunts directed at our Marine Corps. I've always thought our leathernecks were tough enough to take these minor insults, but recently I had to make a point of taking their side. Not because Marines don't handle abuse well, but because so much of what they do every day is never seen by our American public.

When my fiancť's father died, I escorted her mother Rita, and her, to the interment ceremony at Fort Rosecrans, the National Cemetery in San Diego. Fittingly, there was an honor guard and a 21 gun salute. Bud Applegate served in WWII aboard the USS Hornet. Burial space is extremely restricted at Fort Rosecrans now, but wife, Rita, was slated to be next to Bud, when God called her. We thought we had plenty of time.

Rita missed Bud terribly, and kept saying she didn't want to stay on earth without him. When she fell and broke her hip, she decided to go be with Bud. Her daughter, Denise, made final arrangements and invited Rita's priest: Father John Rinaldi to bless them both.

We checked in at the office and were told that the interment official would meet us graveside in about 20 minutes with Rita's ashes. As we walked there, I was flashing back on the honors bestowed on Bud. Too bad, but Rita didn't get the same sendoff as him. As we waited, we said our prayers and goodbyes. Father Rinaldi comforted Denise. He told us there would be another short delay. I excused myself for a few minutes and went up the long path to the road for a quick smoke.

That's when I thought about the Marine Corps. The arena where Bud had received his honors, and they presented Rita an American flag, was just across the road, and down the hill.
 article about I Love The Marines!
Photo By: Sgt. Randall A. Clinton
I must've gotten lucky, because another veteran from the Korean War was receiving his just due from a squad of Marines. I fumbled my way across the road, waited for his rites to end, and then approached the Corporal of the Honor Guard. I identified myself as a former Navy guy, begging a favor. I asked him if his mother was still alive. He said yes, and why? I explained that the widow of the radioman on the USS hornet was being buried, and nobody was making any fuss over her, like they did for her sailor husband. It just wasn't fair. Widows and wives always suffered from war, usually alone. I began to plead with the Corporal to just bring a single flag bearer to Rita's burial. She served her time too! His squad already had another ceremony in the next 30 minutes, but he said he do what he could. Thanking him, I rushed back up the hill and down the long path again to see Father John and Denise. We were soon joined by the interment official, along with Rita's ashes.

Father John began a silent prayer as Bud's vault was opened. For a second, I thought I heard a cadence count being called in the distance. Gestured to Father John to hold off for a few seconds. There was nothing, so I nodded toward the Father to start. As he began his beautiful eulogy, I felt a pang of disappointment. I wanted a little more for Rita. I watched Denise cry, and I started to cry too. As Father John ended his final blessing, I heard the unmistakable sound of leather boot soles slapping, and heels clicking. As I glanced over, I just could not believe what I saw!

Completing a hurried, silent march, all the way down the long path (to be present and on station for the exact, correct moment) was that magnificent Marine Corporal. And accompanying him, were three flag bearers and a bugler. This was the very same unit who had recently honored Bud! In half amazement, half the wonder of a 10-year-old boy, I started to cry so hard, I was shaking. Denise felt it. When she noticed the entire guard unit, snapped to attention, just as the Father said Amen, we fell into each other and sobbed. The Corporal ordered "Present Arms!" and his Bugler began to play Taps! What an honor! I stood us up, wiped my tears away, snapped to attention, and gave our beloved Rita, one last hand salute. Since I wasn't in uniform, I knew I wasn't supposed to do this. But, I believed Rita had earned it. She and Bud now rest in peace on a beautiful, breezy, sloping shore of our Pacific Ocean, gazing to the west. They are together at last.

Veteran's Administration figures tell us that men of the "Greatest Generation" are dying at the rate of hundreds and hundreds a month. So are the women of that same generation! Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors of WWII are given their due respect; it should be the same for all of the mothers, sisters, and wives of that great generation. "Those that stand and waitÖalso serve!" I just think somebody should make a big fuss over them, one last time. God bless you, Rita!

Thank you, Corporal! That's why, since then, until now, I love the Marine Corps! Most Marines do what they do, without any special notice or fanfare. Most Marines go far beyond the call of duty, in the very same way. But somebody should spread the word to all Americans: Our Marines have hearts. Big, huge hearts! That's why today, tomorrow, and all the days I have left, I will always love United States Marines! Semper Fi to you all!