I had never been to a military funeral before but had seen them on TV and certainly read about them. This week, I experienced my first one for Belton P. Mouras, my grandfather.
I had not known him for much of my life as he divorced my grandmother with three daughters at a young age. He went on to have another family, who I also did not know.
I had met him a few times and re-established a connection when I visited his Sacramento home when I returned to California after college. After the visit, he sent me a thank-you note with a $100 bill to help me with my transition. Unexpected, and nice. On our occasional visits after he would flesh out the lore that had been established by other family. Yes, he was born in the bayou of Louisiana and only spoke Cajun French until he was 8. Yes, he had a Purple Heart and an oak leaf cluster. Yes, he had a Bronze Star.
He joined the military at the age of 16 and became a paratrooper. He was in the military for 20 years and retired to become a leader in the American humane movement as founder of the Animal Protection Institute. This was a lifelong legacy for him and he often peppered his stories with anecdotes of congressional hearings to fight for animal rights. He was proud of his work and authored several books on animal welfare. This effort had a lasting impression on me and often imbued my sensibility when it came to animals.
I like to think that our society has made significant progress when it comes to animal welfare and that my grandfather had a hand in that from the 1960s to today.
In recent years, my visits became more frequent in part because his health was declining and because of the urging of my mother who was deepening her relationship with him. My mother, a retired nurse, often calls upon her medical expertise in times of need and has a quiet but steadfast calm to her.
My recent conversations with him were light and oscillated from his wild gambling stories and his one-time ignorance of fancy table settings to his inquiries about the news business. I’m glad my mother was able to deepen her relationship with her father and that I was able to make a connection in his last months.
The funeral was pageantry, with three rifle volleys fired into the air, the playing of Taps and two soldiers folding the American flag he had fought so hard to protect. I couldn’t help to think of his age, 90, and that he is of the last of those who fought in World War II. The Greatest Generation is dying and leaving us with their memory, their lessons and their legacy.
Memorial Day is reserved for those who died in service of their country. Veterans Day is reserved for those who served their country in the military. I know that. But this Memorial Day, I will fly the flag in honor of Belton P. Mouras.
This weekend marks the official dedication of the John Lee Memorial Dog Park at Bayside Joinville Park. Lee, the former mayor of San Mateo, died in 2012 at the age of 81. He was a former Marine captain with a sometimes brusque demeanor that hid a heart of gold. He was also fond of his dogs, thus the idea of naming the dog park after him. His good friend Dan Ionescu worked to establish the memorial gate and flagpole at the site, which will be dedicated 11 a.m. Saturday at 2111 Kehoe Ave.
The Avenue of the Flags Committee will be holding its 73rd annual Memorial Day observance at Golden Gate National Cemetery, 1300 Sneath Lane, in San Bruno, 11 a.m. Monday. Music begins at 10:30 a.m. Featured speakers will be U.S. Air Force Col. Steven Butow and Gold Star father J. Kevin Graves.
An $8 luncheon will follow the program at the American Legion Hall, 757 San Mateo Ave., in San Bruno. Proceeds will be used by the committee for future ceremonies and events. For more information or to RSVP call Carolyn Livengood at (650) 255-5533.
Holy Cross Catholic Cemetery, at 1500 Mission Road in Colma will also have a 11 a.m. ceremony with the Rev. William J. Justice, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco celebrating mass.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.