Thursday, September 22, 2011

Honoring a hero...

This was sent to me this morning in e-mail form. I don't know the name of the person who wrote the actual piece but it was originally forwarded by one Sherri Gallant of Fort Worth, Texas. What an incredible honor to a fallen hero. The people of Texas have always been proud and patriotic and this gesture by so many people, so simple yet so meaningful, is a proud reminder of why America is still the greatest nation in the world.

Subject: We Buried A Hero Today

As I write this, the time is 11:25 p.m. on the evening of Friday, September 9, 2011. We have just arrived back home from a long, very emotionally grueling day. For you see, we buried a hero today in Gustine, Tx. A young man who would have turned 21 years of age next week: Private first class Jesse Wayne Dietrich. Jesse, while being a member of our family, was so much more than that – he was a true American hero: a young man who willingly placed himself at the point of his platoon, because he thought that he could bring them all back alive. A bullet from an insurgent in the Kandahar Region of Afghanistan cut his life short on Friday, August 25, 2011 and we laid him to rest in the very place he had requested before he left to defend this country. This nation has lost a strong, courageous young man, but for me, it has gained so much more.

After the funeral in Mansfield, Tx we gathered in a procession that must have stretched for over a mile on our 120+ mile ride to his final restring place, the Diamond J Youth Ranch in Gustine, Tx. On the way, something happened that the military escort, the funeral home Directors, the family and friends: none of us expected to see. It was something we had heard stories about but had never witnessed with our eyes, until today!

In short, we rode through a 120 mile patriotic tribute; a gauntlet of honor and thanks that began in Mansfield, Tx, then made its way through, Rendon, Ft Worth, Crowley, Whiskey Flats, Cresson, Granbury, Tolar, Bluff Dale, Stephenville, Dublin, Proctor, Gustine, and finally, the Diamond J Youth Ranch. All along the way there were thousands of fellow Americans: some old, some very young, from every walk of life you can imagine, all standing on the sides of the highways, silently holding American flags, carrying homemade posters and banners, hats and hands placed over hearts, amid a myriad of tears and reverence. Motorists who had known nothing of what was coming their way had not only stopped their vehicles out of respect, but were standing outside them, on the sides of the roads, many of them saluting as we passed by.

At every town there were fire trucks with ladders extended and flags flying high and police vehicles by the dozens. Businesses wrote words of thanks and tributes to Jesse on their marquee signs. There were employees who completely left their businesses to come and just say “thanks” to Jesse as his body was driven past them. City offices were totally shut down and all of their employees were standing in silent tribute. There were entire schools of children, all gathered along the roads with the kids holding up signs and posters, telling Jesse how much they loved him. From town to town the scene kept repeating itself, over and over, and over again. When we thought that it would be the last of them, we would top a hill or round a corner and there were more! Even in the deep rural areas where there were no houses or businesses, pickup trucks were off the road and people were in their beds or on the sides of the roads, proudly holding up their American flags.

Several people stick out in my mind. One is the older veteran standing alongside Highway 377 in Granbury, feebly holding onto an American flag. At first I wondered why he was hobbling and finding it difficult to stand, and then I saw that he had no right leg, for where it had been, there was a prosthetic; the same kind that soldiers wear when they have a leg blown off, and yet he stood as best he could, proudly in honor of this hero!

I remember the lady who was standing beside the road weeping and as I said “Thank you” from my car, she answered back with tears in her voice, “I am so sorry! This is all we can do. I am so sorry!”

I remember an older lady, not satisfied with just standing in respect, but was kneeling down beside the road with her flag in her hand and her other hand over her heart.

I called a friend of mine, Brad Heitman, who is on the radio in Stephenville and I asked him if he knew we would be coming through his town, and he said, “Oh yes! Just listen to 93.1 FM.” I turned over there and he was giving updates on our arrival in between playing songs about our American heroes. Before we entered the town, thousands of people were already there waiting for us, with their flags and their hands over their hearts!

All along the road, for 120 miles this continued. And most of the people were not waving, but standing in complete silence and reverence as we passed by. The amazing thing is that we were almost 2 hours late, so some of those folks had been standing there for hours in the sun by the time we passed them - all to show their appreciation and gratitude!

When we finally arrived at Gustine, the entire town was there on the highway! In fact, the whole football team from Gustine High School was standing at the gate to the ranch, all saluting with the hands over their hearts, in tribute to our hero as we turned in front of them.

Finally, the pastor stood at the end of that patriot ride, next to the freshly dug grave and said these words "Rural America has not forgotten! Rural America remembers her heroes!"

Needless to say, for Cindy and I and the hundreds who were part of that processional, it was a day of continual tears and unrestrained gratitude; gratitude that people Jesse had never met, nor had ever met him, sacrificed their time to say “Thank you” in ways that we, the family and friends will NEVER forget! These were not frivolous displays of feigned attempts at patriotism, but rather, the tears we could see them crying, the salutes from the soldiers, adults, teenagers and the children, the flags, banners and signs of support – everything, all of them, were genuine acts of gratitude from hearts that truly meant it! While they were thanking Jesse, they were really thanking all of our military who continually lay their lives on the line for us.

My faith in America has been restored today!! No longer will I allow the far-removed liberals and media in the big cities define who and what America is for me! I saw her today, and words cannot begin to describe what we all felt as we viewed the heart of this great land with our own eyes!! In fact, I overheard two family members say these words this evening: “We just thought that we were patriotic!”

We sing God Bless America and America has indeed been blessed by God, but I am here to tell you, the kind, compassionate heart of God is alive and well in the heart of this bountiful land He has so richly blessed us with and I believe that today, this people of this land unselfishly blessed Him – while they were blessing us!

Thank you America, and may God bless you as you have blessed others today!

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