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Patriotism takes on new meaning after funeral

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I realize that Veterans Day has just recently passed. 
I made my yearly calls to both my father and father-in-law to thank them for being a veteran as well as telling my husband that morning how much I appreciated his being a veteran and serving our country.
I always “thought” I had a deep sense of patriotism until recently, when I attended my brother-in-law’s funeral.
It was a military funeral.  I have never attended one before. 
My husband’s family, all career military, have a deep-down, fierce love of this country and the armed forces, as does my own father. 
My father-in-law served proudly in two different branches of the military; my husband and all of his brothers and even his sister served, representing the Air Force, Army, Navy and National Guard. 
My own father served in the army during the Korean War.  I have heard my father on many occasions speak of coming back from Korea on a ship in the New York harbor and seeing the Statue of Liberty, getting all choked up and tears of joy streaming down his face from being so grateful to God for  bringing him back home and being so proud of our great Nation. 
So you can understand why I thought I understood the meaning of patriotism...until Tuesday, Nov. 16.
My brother-in-law, Lloyd Middendorf, affectionately known to his family and friends as “Middy,” died Nov. 12 after a seven-year-long battle of prostate cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War. 
Middy had both a career in the Air Force as well as the National Guard.  If ever there was a proud American, Middy was the poster child. 
At his funeral, taps played in the background at the Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery..
I was most impressed with the way in which the honor guard handled themselves and with each meticulous move, choreographed to perfection. 
The guns fired and the faint echo of a snare drum, then the folding of the American flag which had draped his coffin during the service and to his final resting place. 
The care and concern for each fold and corner was something to behold. 
Once this was completed, the guard, with precise movement, offered the flag to my sister-in-law, children and grand-children “on behalf of the United States of America, please accept this token of deep appreciation for the service and dedication of your husband and father.” Then came a final salute.
At the service earlier in the day, rather than the normal Amazing Grace and traditional hymns we are used to, Middy, while he was able, had selected several weeks ago the song God Bless the USA, better known as I’m Proud to be an American by Lee Greenwood. 
I had to ask myself if Middy would have changed his decisions of joining the Air Force, going to Vietnam, if he had know what was to happen to him later on in life. 
I knew the answer, it was no!
Middy made his choices and if he had to do it all over again, even knowing the outcome, he would have made the same choices. 
My being witness to the events of a military funeral made me first even more proud to be an American and deepend my respect and appreciation for our veterans.
Veterans, this is my thanks for all your sacrifices (seen and unseen), a thank you for allowing me to enjoy all the freedoms I cherish.
Thank you for your own sacrifices in sending your loved ones off to protect us here at home and to fight for our freedoms.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Cynthia Plemens
Harriman