I wish I could shake their hands and thank them

Written by Bob on May 30th, 2010


Volunteers and loved ones placed flags and bouquets of flowers next to the gravestones of United States military veterans during a flag planting ceremony at Desert Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park on Sunday.
Photos By BOB OTTO

CALIMESA, CA – I’ve never met Kenneth S. Adams, Wendell D. Crandall, Jr., Edwin George Cowan, or James F. Kunze, Jr.

But I wish I could. I’d like to shake their hands and thank them.

All four men served in the United States Armed Forces. Adams in the Army, Crandall the Navy, Cowan in the Army Air Forces, and Kunze as a United States Marine.

On Sunday, about 75 volunteers gathered at Desert Lawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park. They came, young and old, from Yucaipa American Legion Post 426, VFW Post 7347, and a local Boy Scout troop, to plant flags at the grave sites of the veterans buried at Desert Lawn. Every veteran receives a flag.

And Adams, Crandall, Cowan, and Kunze are among them. It’s a moving site with all those small American flags fluttering in the breeze. To see the gentleness in which the volunteers place the flags by the graves of our veterans. To see beautiful bouquets of flowers placed alongside the flags – usually by a loved one, missing their veteran so very much.

I stopped by Adams, Crandall, Cowan, and Kunze’s graves during the flag planting ceremony. I wondered about their service. I wondered about their bravery during time of war. I wondered if I could ever be as brave as they were.

I was fortunate. I was in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, but I never had to fight. Instead, I enjoyed a safe tour of duty in Japan. Far from the fighting that Adams and Kunze endured. Far from the fighting that took the lives of 58,168 brave men and women.

I was one of the lucky ones.

Adam’s gravestone reads that he was a Corporal in the Army with Company D, 31st Infantry Division, and Light Infantry Brigade. His headstone also reads that he served in Vietnam. It also states that he was born July 6, 1945 and died November 23, 1967.

Cpl. Adams was 22-years-old at the time of his death.

James F. Kunze’s headstone simply reads, SSGT USMC 1947 – 1975. Just 28 at the time of his death.

I wonder how Cpl. Adams and SSGT Kunze died. Only their families and the Army and Marine Corps know that.

But what I do know is that men like Adams and Kunze served our country courageously and admirably. And many more like them continue to serve today.

And for that I am grateful.

Tomorrow I’ll return to Desert Lawn for Memorial Day Services. Grateful Yucaipa Valley residents will gather to honor men like Adams, Crandall, Cowan, and Kunze, for the service they gave to our country.

I only wish I could shake their hands and thank them.

(Memorial Day Services starts at 11 a.m. on Monday. Desert Lawn Memorial Park is located off the Interstate 10 Freeway between Calimesa and Beaumont. From Interstate 10, exit at Cherry Valley Blvd. and proceed south – about 20 yards – to Desert Lawn Drive. Turn left (east) on to Desert Lawn Drive and proceed to the memorial park on the right.)

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