by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
S.K. Ken Baril
It was a warm, spring morning. The sun was shining in all its’ glory and the aroma of the grass and plants covered with early morning dew gave one an instant sensation of being so glad to be alive. Later that day, my wife and I would be boarding a chartered tour bus for a four - day trip to our Nations Capitol. We visited Washington, D.C. many, many years ago, including Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but this trip has a much more meaningful purpose to it. This was before the Vietnam Wall of Remembrance was erected. After seeing the monuments, which do not change over the years, my wife and I were to spend a good portion of the morning in Arlington National Cemetery. The last time we were here was twenty - seven years ago when we attended the military funeral for our son Paul, who was killed in action in Vietnam. He was twenty - two years old. It is a beautiful place, well kept and extremely peaceful. My wife and I knew exactly where our son’s final resting place was, so we immediately headed in that direction. It was a bit of a walk, so we took our time, hand in hand. No words were exchanged. We then came to the section where our son rests and proceeded to walk across the recently mowed green grass until we were at his marble cross.
Paul J. Comstock
Feb 19 1949
June 3 1971
It is almost impossible for us to comprehend that we are standing at the grave of our son. He was only twenty - two years old. His life was just beginning. My memories of his happy childhood stood out in my mind; his first ride on his new bike when he claimed the training wheels were un-necessary until he fell and scraped his knee. His first time at bat in Little League was a disaster. He struck out. All the things a young boy goes through during that stage of life. I could go on, but you know of what I am speaking of.
He was twenty-years old when he came to us, held his Moms hand, and said, “It is time for me to go, Mom.” It was then we realized that war had come to the world again, and families were broken apart never to be the same. His eyes glistened as he left us, for he was ours no more, nor we his. He had started his solitary walk into the world of man’s wars. Our son’s name is one of the 58,282 names inscribed upon the Wall of Remembrance. Can you imagine that? Fifty-eight thousand two hundred and eighty two young men and women gave their lives during that war! The figure is staggering.
We patiently waited for word as to when his body would be brought home. What disturbed us the most is when our son arrived his casket was sealed. We were deprived of seeing him one last time, and of saying our last good-bye. Many unanswered questions remained. Did he suffer? Where was he hit and by what? A short time after the funeral we received a letter from a soldier who was in my son’s company. He gave us the details as to how our son died.
He wrote that while out on patrol, the enemy ambushed them. Most of the men in the squad were wounded including our son. Disregarding his own wounds, he picked up and carried most of the other wounded to an area for cover. The letter writer was the last man our son was carrying when a grenade went off directly in front of them. Because our son was carrying him on his back, he took the full blast and the shrapnel just tore his body apart. With all the strength his body could muster, he carried his wounded comrade in arms as far as he could, before he dropped from loss of blood. He had saved one more life before he died a short time later. I answered his letter with many thanks. This brings some closure, but the sad part is that our son lost two lives; the one he was living and the one he would have lived.
For what seemed to be an eternity, my wife and I stood and stared at the marble grave marker, and then left. It was then, as we began to walk among the white crosses and stars that the tears began. They fell freely and neither Mom nor I attempted to hold them back. We were not alone, for through our tear – filled eyes, we could see others sharing the same experience. These tears will become Dew Drops on the Wall. It was extremely emotional. We returned to our sons resting place one last time. I came to attention, snapped a salute, and with a quivering voice said:
“So long, my Son, sleep with God,
You have no more to give.
You gave your young life so couragesly,
So others, like us may live.”
After arriving back at home, I went upstairs to his room. Everything was exactly as it was the day he left for the Army. Even the clothes he sent home after his indoctrination still lie folded on the chair next to his bed. All the school pictures of him, his teammates, and the trophy’s are still standing on the shelf. The folded flag presented to his Mom and me, along with his medals are in the mahogany folded flag case, and standing on the dresser. Time seems to have just stood still. His baseball glove is there in the corner, and as I picked it up and gently slid my fingers inside, I could still feel his love and respect; his warmth and understanding, his sincerity and his compassion, gently flow from his heart to my mine. I removed the glove and placed it back in the spot where it was, and as I slowly closed the door to his room, I thought, “My son, once again, I bid you farewell. For the brief time that you honored me with your presence, you taught me more about life than anything I have experienced. None of us knows how much time we will have on this earth, but I do know that when my time comes, I can only hope that I have become half the man you had already become.”
As the final notes of “TAPS” echo and fade away, we know we will never understand. The only thing we can do is to enshrine him in our memories and to keep faith with him by doing our best to create and preserve the kind of world he would have enjoyed.
Our son lost two lives. The one he was living and the one he would have lived. War drew him from our homeland in the sunlit springtime of his youth. Those, our comrades in arms who did not return, remain in perpetual springtime, forever young, and a part of them is with us forever. As I live out my years, I will not forget all the days and nights and all the seasons you have missed, all the laughter and the sweet smell of
life you have lost forever. I make you this promise. I will never forget all the days and nights and all the seasons you have missed - all the laughter and the sweet smell of life you have lost forever. I will not forget and I will do all I can to ensure that others, somehow, will not forget either. This I owe you as long as I live. I make you this promise. I will never forget.
May no soldier go unloved
May no soldier walk alone.
May no soldier be forgotten
Until they all come home.
Let us pray to the Supreme Commander that all our comrades in arms will soon be back within our ranks. Those who do not return, we will never forget their sacrifices. May God cradle each one of these heroes in His loving arms. May each of them walk with God and sleep with the Angels.
MAY GOD BLESS THOSE WHO PAID THE SUPREME SACRIFICE.
MAY GOD BLESS THOSE NOW SERVING AND THOSE IN HARM’S WAY.
MAY GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
~KBWB Ken Baril was born in New Haven, CT. and moved to the Cincinnati area in 1999. He is a three time Master of his lodge, Temple Lodge No. 16. AF & AM, 1982-1983-1995, located in Cheshire, CT. While living in Connecticut and prior to his moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, Ken has been the featured speaker at many public schools and Veterans organizations. Ken is a published author who has written a book focusing on members of the Masonic Fraternity who have been recipients of our nation’s highest award for bravery, the prestigious Medal of Honor called " The Medal of Honor - The Letter G in Valor". Ken has dedicated his time and effort to researching and developing various programs including, “The Medal of Honor Program,” “The Immortal Four Chaplains,” as well as many others. His programs are dedicated to the preservation of an important portion of American history, contributions, and sacrifices, in the defense of the United States, and to the memory of all those who have given their lives in the pursuit of that objective. He also writes articles for various Masonic publications. He served his country during the Korean War in the United States Air Force. He currently resides in Hudson, FL. with his wife, Marion.