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US National Cemetery burials . . .

To whom it may concern:

Interments in America’s national cemeteries are accomplished under rather rigid rules and regulations. Those directives specify who, why, how, where and when such burials are made. I am not aware of any exceptions to those rules—one cannot, for example, choose a shady spot with a hilltop view and request burial there. Such requests may be made, of course, but will politely be refused.

As earth is removed to accommodate new arrivals to the cemetery the length, width and depth of the excavation is done in accordance with regulations and is intended to accept four burials, with the potential of accepting a total of eight burials. The mandatory concrete vaults are constructed with four niches for future occupants, and the excavation is filled when the four occupants are in place.

Before the caskets are lowered in their separate compartments plastic strips of material, fitted with several lengths of plastic pipe placed cross-ways, are placed on the bottom of each compartment. The resulting space created between the vault bottom and the bottom of the casket when lowered allows the lowering bands to be removed, then each compartment of the four-unit vault is covered and sealed.

Should one or more of the compartments need to accommodate another casket in the future, only the earth above that compartment need be excavated. The vault cover will then be removed, another strip with rollers will be placed atop the lower casket and the second casket will be lowered, the vault cover will be replaced and the excavation will be returned to its original configuration.

Let me say at this juncture without any attempt at being flippant or funny, that those  consigned to burial in a national military cemetery do not have, nor do they need, lots of elbow room. Each of the four-compartment concrete vaults discussed above has the combined potential of holding a total of eight caskets, two in each compartment. Land for burials is limited, and every effort must be made to accommodate as many burials as possible in the space available.

I imagine that some people feel, as I have felt in the past, that they would like to have their final resting place on a hilltop in a place shaded by a towering oak that marks the spot—a beacon, so to speak—with a magnificent 360-degree view of the surrounding area—minus the diameter of the tree, of course.

The view would be a monumental panoramic scene of hills and valleys, wildflowers and streams and waterfalls and myriad wildlife moving about with balmy breezes caressing the flora and fauna of the area. I suggest that those who long for such a final resting place should consider the attractions of perpetual care and companionship with those that have exchanged this realm for another, and for themselves at the end of their journey through life on earth, a journey that ultimately returns each of us, in one manner or another, to the earth—in Biblical terms, to the earth from whence we came.

I feel tremendously privileged that both I and my wife qualify for interment there, a right that was accorded her based on our marriage and her support of a husband far too often away from home for extended periods, and for her maintenance of our home and possessions, and for fathering as well as mothering our three children in my absences. At some time in the future, interred in one of this nation’s national cemeteries, I fully expect to be happy and comfortable when I am reunited with my wife of some fifty-eight years in our cozy one-fourth of a community crypt in Fort Sam Houston’s National Cemetery.

My wife is now, and I will become, part of a community that enjoys maximum security—its grounds are immaculately kept and visitations are virtually unlimited. And at this juncture I must explain, in the interests of full disclosure and again with no attempt at being flippant or funny, that although I look forward to that reunion I will do nothing to hasten it—I will, in fact, do everything I can to delay it.

Our condominium lacks the towering oak tree, but a young oak has been planted nearby and is thriving, and with the assistance of weather and ground keepers and a bit of luck it will tower over us some day. Nor does our site—our suite, if you will—include a vista of hills or valleys or streams or waterfalls, but balmy breezes waft o’er the community and wildlife abounds.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio, TX 78297

Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

What you are about to read may prevent a collision that may seriously damage your automobile, including the possibility of it being totaled, and it could save you from incurring serious injuries sustained in a collision, and may even in some instances save your life—but only if you read and heed this message.

This is a tale of driver frustration and road rage, emotions that are daily demonstrated in every metropolitan city in the nation, but particularly in the Alamo city with its population second only to Houston in the state of Texas and seventh in the United States. There are numerous recordings of road rage in San Antonio, some that have caused major damage to vehicles and introduced death to some drivers.

A few years ago an elderly driver exited Loop 410 West, turned left under the expressway then left into HEB’s Market Place parking lot and parked. When he stepped out of his car he was shot dead by a driver that had followed him from the expressway. There were witnesses that noted an auto being closely followed into the parking lot by another auto, but none could positively identify the shooter or his car—to this day the murder is unsolved and probably will never be solved.

The consensus among investigating officials was that the elderly driver was an unknowing victim of road rage, having done something to infuriate the shooter. The elderly driver had perhaps failed to signal a turn or was following too closely or was proceeding at a leisurely pace on the city’s speedway known as Loop 410. Whatever the reason for the murder, one man is dead and the killer is free to kill again should the occasion arise in the future.

My daughter—a lovely lady, the youngest of my three equally lovely daughters—had the right rear window of her car shot out while traveling from work to home on Loop 410. She had no warning and could not tell the origin of the shot, but speculated it came from a car traveling beside her on the Loop or from someone off the side of the freeway. The window was still in place when she arrived home, albeit with a small hole in the center and cracks radiating in every direction. When we opened the door the window shattered into small pieces.

We called the police and a search was made of the rear seat area, but nothing was found that may have caused the damage. The police officer speculated that a lead pellet fired from a pellet gun had shattered the window, a pellet fired deliberately at the car or an errant pellet fired at some other target. Pellet guns don’t fire BBs—such guns are powerful and are used by hunters to kill small animals including rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes. The pellets are heavy and are propelled at high speed with enough weight and power to penetrate a human skull—they can kill.

That pellet could just as easily have struck the right front window and hit my daughter or her friend that was by the right front window. This could have been an act by a juvenile following an I dare you taunt, or the act of someone my daughter or her friend had rebuffed at some time in the past, or perhaps someone that she or her friend had flipped a bird at on the freeway because of another driver’s action.

Please trust me, San Antonio—do not flip birds or make other obscene gestures at another driver. If you take such actions you are subject to having a window shattered or a bumper hooked, or be forced off the road, and you may die as a direct result of having angered someone that—please forgive the expression—you pissed off in some way.

Now to the gist of this posting:

I am an elderly driver—I freely admit that, and I endeavor to remember my status in all my actions, particularly in operating motor vehicles and guns. I don’t add guns as a threat—I just thought that I should mention that I am an accomplished shooter, including expertise with military weapons as well as those available to home owners, including shotguns and pistols, some with magnum capabilities. Oh, and I also have a pellet gun, an estate sale find I couldn’t resist.

No, I have never shot out the rear window or any window of an auto driven by a cute blond, or a cute brunette for that matter—and both are legion in this great city—nor have I ever been inclined to do so—I sometimes gawk at or wave at or—gasp—even wink at, but I do not shoot at such persons. And no, that’s not my photo—that’s one of the cute blonds I mentioned. I said I was an elderly driver, remember?

This morning I drove two miles or so to the Whataburger outlet nearest my home, the one located at the intersection of US Highway 281 North and Brook Hollow Drive. I stopped for a red light at the intersection of Brook Hollow and Heimer and stayed in the left lane. An SUV driven by a woman pulled up beside me in the right lane and stopped. I knew from experience gleaned over some twenty years of traversing that intersection that she would continue straight ahead when the light changed to green.

The street ahead had four lanes for a short half-block, but the right lane was provided to allow a driver crossing the intersection to turn right on a side street—-from that point the street narrowed to one lane in each direction. While the light was still red a second SUV pulled up behind the woman.

In anticipation of her accelerating to cross over to my lane, I moved out at a pace calculated to give her the space she needed—not sedately or at a crawl, but just enough to let her get ahead of me, and after she was in front of me I accelerated to the 35 MPH allowed in that area.

It wasn’t fast enough for the driver of the second SUV—he blew his horn repeatedly and then fell in behind me and stayed on my bumper until Brook Hollow Drive became a two lane in both directions and I signaled a left turn into Whataburger’s parking lot.

He immediately floored the SUV, passed me and turned sharply in front of me into my lane. I anticipated that action, the action of an idiot, and I braked enough to avoid our bumpers—my front and his rear—making contact. I was successful, and I turned into the parking lot while the SOB in the SUV continued under the 281 overpass and turned south on the access road toward downtown.

Our local news channels and our lone daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, routinely report similar instances. Many, perhaps most of such actions are those of gang members, but not all—some are simply a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something—no matter whether deliberately or inadvertently—by voice or gesture or motioning or by vehicle operation, driving another person into such a rage that they wound and maim and even kill to get revenge for such actions.

In closing, remember that the life you save may be your own. Don’t respond to the actions of some SOB in an SUV, and be content by wishing that should that person be involved in a serious accident he—or she—will arrive at the hospital DOA.

No, I’ll take back the part of someone arriving at the hospital DOA. When I am faced with such churlish actions on the part of another driver, I say aloud to myself and to any others that may be riding with me that, Perhaps we will find that vehicle wrapped around a utility pole farther down the road, with the driver surviving with a few broken bones and a serious concussion, but no injuries to other occupants. No, I do not wish anyone to die, but I admit that I will not mourn for any appreciable amount of time if such occurs.

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a different audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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