The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Vacation Put In Perspective

By Elaine Slater Reese

We recently returned from a vacation to the Smoky Mountains. It was the third year in a row several of us have traveled together on a tour bus. What a great time we had!

We spent time at Dollywood and Gatlinburg. The tour of the Baseball Slugger Museum was much more interesting than I had expected.

There was a mystery dinner theatre and numerous musical productions including a fantastic gospel group. On the next to last day of the trip, we stopped in the morning at Corbin, Kentucky and visited the site of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken which Colonel Sanders started in his little gas station. When we went outside, it was a perfect fall day, sun shining - the air still.

All three of the large buses on our tour group were parked in the lot near the exit. But then the drivers told us to not get on the buses. They explained. "The body of a young Marine killed in Afghanistan is being brought home. We need to wait until the procession goes by." Immediately our chatter and gaiety turned to total silence. No one moved. No one spoke. Again, a reminder of how just one second can change so much in our lives.

At a gas station right across the road, a lone man stood with the American flag. Three small flags had been placed by the roadway. The Marine was being transported from the airport back to Corbin.

I can only assume that many were there to honor him as the procession got closer to the town. There still were no voices as we waited.

Then finally the big white hearse came slowly around the curve. All the veterans on our tour saluted the fallen one. Others placed their hand over their heart. Tears flowed freely.

The next cart transported his beautiful young widow. The next two carried parents. The woman who raised her hand to her face in shock as she saw all of us was obviously his mother. There were a few other cars and then a long motorcycle escort. The American Flag waved proudly on each cycle.

We eventually all got back on our buses - still not a word spoken. All was silent for a long time as we started our way back home.

We saw a lot of beautiful things. We enjoyed the talents of many people. We ate wonderful meals.

But what will I always remember about this vacation? I will remember standing there in an unfamiliar place, tears streaming down my face, my heart breaking for this family, praying for them, and thanking God for what 22 year-old Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Jackson sacrificed for all of us during combat operations in Afghanistan.

How often we complain about what we have or don't have. So seldom do we reflect on what others have given that we may do that.

Any eligible voter who did not vote in the recent election should be required to watch a procession like we saw, to attend a military funeral, to talk with the family who lost a loved one a year or two after the death and see how the family is doing at that time.

Always take the time to thank a veteran or a veteran's family. THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FREEDOM WE HAVE.

Edtor's Note: Elaine Slater Reese is a freelance writer in Spring Green, Wi. who grew up in Hancock County - near Bowen, Illinois