Van E. Harl
SPICE UP YOUR OBITUARY
I am a retired Air Force policeman and former civilian police officer. One of the bad habits of a cop I developed was reading the obituaries on a daily basis. Cops are looking to see if any of their old customers are no longer in the game. In the world of Total Quality Management you learn about just-in-time management. Obituaries can give you a just-in-time last look at how some folks managed their former lives.
The Navy had a recruiting commercial in the recent past. The subject of the commercial was “if they wrote a book about your life-would anyone read it.” “He was born, he went to school, he got a job, married and then he died.” Pretty uninspiring life I would assume. Most of the obituaries I read are for folks, of the World War II and Korean War era. A time in US history when this country had a draft and by virtue of that draft, a lot more Americans traversed the military than they do now.
“Indecision is the key to flexibility,” a phrase used often by my father, the old Master Chief. If you do not have to make a major life choice and you don’t, you have still made a choice. By not deciding one way or the other about joining the military you have in fact made a choice. I attended eleven schools in my K-thru-12th grade education because of my father’s naval career. The military made my family move and this forced me to meet new people and learn new things, whether I wanted to or not.
Thanks to dad’s career my obituary was pretty well fleshed out before I was out of college. Then I joined the Air Force and my obituary really got fleshed out. Now that I am retired, I am following my active duty Air Force wife around the country. My obituary is getting even better.
An obituary is the last written record of a person’s life history. Kind of sad when the last thing written is “Fred was on the company bowling team.” Unfortunately women fare even worse than men do when it comes to obituaries. “She was the daughter of, the wife of, the mother of – we will miss her.” That is all right I guess, but it is a little dry. I enjoy reading the obituary of an older woman that says “she was a WAVE in the US Navy and served in WW II, or she was a 30 year career Army Officer.” With so many women in today’s military, there will be a lot more, interesting obituaries for women in 50 or 60 years.
Some veterans believe they have already done what it takes to have an excellent obituary. But, they can do more. It is time to start steering our children and grandchildren into the military. Without a draft, some of these young people will never make that major life decision and they are in great need of guidance from the old veterans in this country.
Now if you have never been in the military, there are other ways to serve your country. The Coast Guard, Air Force and the Army have uniformed-civilian auxiliary and / or reserve organizations you can join. There is the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Air Force-Civil Air Patrol and the Army Guard has the State Defense Force / Militia programs. These organizations wear uniforms, follow military rules and protocol and serve their local community. They provide a way for you to assist your nation in peacetime and even more importantly in time of crises. “Chief Master Sergeant John Doe served his nation for over 20 years in the Air Force-Civil Air Patrol” sounds so much more meaningful in an obituary than “Fred liked to fish on weekends.”
I ask again, if someone did write that book about you-would it be interesting enough read? For that matter, would your life be interesting enough for someone to spend the time writing your story? The bottom line is you have to lead a meaningful and interesting life in order to have a meaningful and interesting obituary. Just maybe the active duty, the guard and reserve or one of the military’s uniformed-civilian-organizations can help you serve others and in so doing, help you develop an interesting life and an interesting obituary.
“We buried another Veteran today – it seems all my life it happens that way.”
©Copyright September 26, 2003 by Van E. Harl