Memorial Day is a holiday to remember those who lost their lives in military service, and that is important to remember. But on this Memorial Day weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the funeral of a veteran. And not just any veteran, but a World War II hero.
In December 1944, while fighting with the United States Army in Belgium, Technical Sergeant Vernon McGarity was wounded during battle. But after receiving treatment, he refused to leave to go to a safer location. Instead, he went back to his unit. Once there, he saved the lives of his men multiple times over the course of the battle, until they eventually ran out of ammunition and were captured. Because of his service and his heroism, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. You can read more about his actions at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society website.
[caption id=“attachment_3302” align=“aligncenter” width=“490”] Vernon McGarity’s Medal of Honor on display at his funeral[/caption]
But to me and my family, Vernon McGarity was just Mac. He was a close friend and companion to my grandmother. They had both lost their spouses several years ago, and they became great friends who spent part of most every day together. He was a kind, quiet, proud man who never spoke of the war. In fact, if someone else hadn’t told you, you would never know that he was a highly decorated war veteran. While some have used their medals and awards to gain standing in society, Mac chose to humbly put that aside, never using his honors for his own personal gain.
[caption id=“attachment_3301” align=“aligncenter” width=“490”] The rifle team waits to fire their volleys.[/caption]
The funeral was, of course, a full military funeral. There were veterans from different wars there, as well as current service people. Another Medal of Honor recipient, honored for his service in Vietnam, was even in attendance, having driven in from Alabama for the funeral. The Patriot Guard was there with flags, rifles were fired, and Taps was played by a trumpeter.
[caption id=“attachment_3300” align=“aligncenter” width=“490”] The Patriot Guard and their flags.[/caption]
But while most people remembered his great service all those years ago, my family remembered his kindness, and not only to my grandmother. Mac adored Jaylin. Every year, we give a calendar with Jaylin’s photos to family members as a Christmas gift, and Mac always wanted one, too. Also, his cleaning lady would leave him packages of crackers, and he would send those for Jaylin to have.
Vernon McGarity was a great man, and not just because of his military heroism.