By Lynn R. Mitchell
It’s a warm summer morning in Augusta County under mostly cloudy skies with thunderstorms in the forecast and hot temperatures on tap again as family and friends plan to gather later today to say goodbye to my across-the-street neighbor, Ralph Dameron, of Augusta County. His service as a teenager who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in the 1960s as a “tunnel rat” will be forefront at the funeral that will take place in a small, historic church in the pastoral Shenandoah Valley with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.
Twenty-one American flags will wave in the breeze as Patriotic Guard Riders arrive at the church. A military honor guard will attend, and a horse-drawn caisson will wait to carry the flag-draped casket to the nearby grave site. Military veterans will be there to pay their respects including other Vietnam vets riding Harleys.
Another who served time in Vietnam is Daniel Cortez, U.S. Marine veteran who lives in Northern Virginia and is a contributing writer to LynnRMitchell.com. He left home at 5:00 a.m. today to make the trek to Augusta County and, even though he didn’t personally know Ralph, he wanted to pay his respects to a fellow Vietnam vet. The brotherhood is tight.
Ralph served two tours of duty in Vietnam and was there during the 1968 Tet Offensive. He was injured seven times, earned three Purple Hearts, and carried shrapnel in his body until the day he died. Ralph’s wife has asked that I take photos of today’s ceremonies. I will do my best to honor someone I called neighbor but also someone who answered the call to duty for America.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
–Revelation 21:4 (NIV)