A few months ago it struck me that my Dad (John Mahler, who now lives in Georgia) would be celebrating his 75th birthday in the same month that I’d be celebrating my 50th, and so I had the brilliant idea (I guess everyone gets one per lifetime) of meeting in his hometown of Henderson, Kentucky to celebrate a 125th birthday party together. That little kernel of an idea coalesced into – with the help of many family members – two family reunions over the course of Memorial Day weekend.
My Dad and Mom (Jane Mahler [Knight]) come from truly amazing and wonderful families, and it had been a long time since I had enjoyed so much fantastic food with so many great relatives, but what struck me most about my visit was the way that Henderson observed Memorial Day. As a long-time resident of San Diego County, I would consider Henderson County, Kentucky as somewhat small in both size and population, but she is truly a giant in the way she honors those who have served, and all communities would do well to emulate her in this regard.
Surrounding their war memorial in downtown Henderson’s central park there were 4,380 white crosses, each inscribed with the name of a U.S. military veteran and decorated with an American flag. Each cross represented someone from the County who had served and died (either during their military service or subsequently). It was solemn and beautiful and moving and appropriate. And all the more so because I knew some of the names, and the names of many more who will one day be displayed there.
On Memorial Day itself a public service was held in that park – the most moving and appropriate display of God-centered patriotism I’ve ever encountered, and several times I was moved to the brink of tears. The mere six relatively easy years I spent defending the Constitution pales in comparison to the service of so many, but I must say that whatever service I did give was amply rewarded on Monday by the brave and unashamed use of the freedom of speech exhibited by the people of Henderson, who publicly thanked God for the privilege of being that rare person known as an American, and who thanked Him for our nation, it’s heritage and its many blessings.
After a wonderful service we all joined voices to sing the Battle Hymn of the Republic, America the Beautiful and God Bless the USA, followed by a 21-gun salute and ending with Taps. Few things move a military man or veteran like that simple tune on the bugle, for we all know that we once gave an oath that might see the still air above our own flag-draped coffin pierced by it. I was once again reminded that only a good nation would give so much blood, life and effort to see others remain free, and ask so little from them in return. And only a good County is stalwart enough to not break faith with such men and women, and with the inspiration of Heaven that has always driven such service.
Roy Crenshaw (grandfather).
Jimmy Cunningham (uncle).
Raymond Sigler (uncle).
Randy Shiver (uncle).
Ralph Posey (uncle).
Ray Sigler (cousin).
Thank you, Henderson. America is fortunate to have you, and this Californian counts it a distinct honor to have Kentucky in his veins.