The familiar train whistles of Orange were the only sounds during a moment of silence to honor those who have died for American freedom during Shangri La’s Memorial Day ceremony.
The gardens’ Great Bell was struck three times to signal the silent period and heard throughout downtown Orange on a warm, bright blue day.
In his message, the Rev. Scott McIntosh of North Orange Baptist Church, and a military chaplain, told the story of a Marine who deployed to Afghanistan shortly after boot camp.
He was sent to a fire base where insurgent attacks were constant.
“They would sneak up at all hours of the day or night, and try to slip through the gates and the walls,” McIntosh said. “And Bobby along with his fellow Marines would try to beat them off – to repel them.”
One night, Bobby’s friends were hit by an IED during an attack. Hearing the screams of his friends, he ran 100 yards and back three times to rescue them. Then he heard another scream and headed out again.
The cry had come from an insurgent. Bobby never made it back.
Later, a letter to his parents – never mailed – was found.
It read, “Thank you for loving me my whole life. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be an American, and if I die, know that I died an honorable death protecting my fellow Marines and my country.”
McIntosh continued, “We live in a country where that idea has been lived over and over and over again – for years – decades – centuries. You and I are the recipients of people who have given their lives for their friends.
Drawing parallels to Christ and the fallen Marine, McIntosh said, “In these two instances, we have the joy of watching those two friends come together as one. I hope you are proud to be an American. Not because you’re better than anyone else, but because you have received a great legacy that has gone before us.”
As Raegan Grantham performed “The Star Spangled Banner,” some saluted.
Some held their hands to their hearts.
And some softly sang.