On a sunny June day, in a sprawling crisp green veteran’s cemetery, beside a flag-wrapped casket, I delivered this eulogy for Lt. Col. Lawrence A. Greensides, USAF. He was a decorated bomber pilot in both WWII and Korea, and among many other things he taught me how to ride a motorcycle, how to drive a car, and how to live (and tell) a terrific story.
He was a great one, of a great generation, a living, loving legend for my own children. He is now a family legend departed, and he will be more than missed.
In Memoriam: Lawrence Aubry
We plant a man. We plant him in a garden reserved for such men. The soil is right for him here, in this place of flags, of ranks, of service pride, in this place where the mournful horn blows and old hands salute.
When the great Easter comes to this garden, to this sun-filled field; when the horns of final triumph blow, the crop here will be soldiers, sailors, marines…and the men who wore wings. And you, Granddad, among them.
Strong hands, strong heart, strong will—you were cut from the toughest cloth of a generation, cloth that wouldn’t tear or give, perfect for flight suits and coveralls and combat and war. That toughness could struggle in homes, on sofas, in the soft places, but that toughness saved the world.
You, Granddad, had seen Death before. You had felt its breath on you, that cold wind that tugs soul from flesh. Engines quitting high in the sky, bullets gnawing wings, fallen friends, shredded planes, and on the ground—bombs. The bomb that threw you and chewed your leg. The sizzling shrapnel you brushed off your chest. For a while, your life was simply almost death. You knew fear, terror even, but you never broke. Not then.
I was young, and I stood there, feet in the water, watching you stride into the lake, demanding to be baptized. I watched you sink. I watched you rise again, walking out of your own Jordan with two fists raised and a whoop of triumph. I listened to you tell me, tell everyone, and all the world, “Praise the Lord.” You were broken, but not by bullets and bombs. You were broken by grace.
Once more you have walked out into the water. Once more, I watch you sink. May we have your courage, for we will sink, too—your children and grandchildren and descendants unborn. But we serve the Man who was planted, the Son who rose, who gave you to us and us to you. And when He calls, we will rise together and raise our fists and whoop while the horns blow and drums roll and banners curl in the sky like ticker tape for the great parade.
Until then, we hope, we pray, we plant a man.
You, Granddad, fly ahead.
Your last war is won.