By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
When Don Lukeman recently went to the funeral of a friend, he forgot the gentleman was a Navy veteran.
“Two men were in the whitest of whitest uniforms at the funeral procession”, he said. “They took the flag and did a routine with the flag. It was so moving.”
Lukeman thought it would make a good program for the Goshen Evening Exchange Club. He said he made some phone calls and was referred to Roger Bayak, a member of the Goshen Veterans Honor Guard.
“I asked Roger and he said, ‘Yes, we give programs,’” Lukeman recalled to members of the Exchange Club at Joanna’s Family Restaurant in Goshen Thursday.
Terry Morgan and George Buckmaster serve as members of the Goshen Veterans Honor Guard and attended the program to help demonstrate the flag-folding ceremony. They put on white gloves before starting the program.
“We have the gloves on because it’s a matter of honor,” Bayak said. “No touching (of the flag) without gloves is allowed.”
Morgan and Buckmaster completely unfolded a flag so the club members could see and understand the process from beginning to completion.
A large flag was folded lengthwise twice before Bayak explained the symbolic folds in the ceremony.
Some of the folds represent life, belief in eternal life, honor and reverence, allegiance to country, a tribute to the armed forces, honor for womanhood and fatherhood, and eternity.
“The stars at the top (of the almost folded flag) remind people of those who fought for our freedom,” Bayak said. “The folded flag takes on the form of a cocked hat and reminds us of the ones who fought during the Revolutionary War for freedom.”
Bayak told the audience that the word veteran to him means “freedom.”
“Without veterans, there would be no freedom,” he said. “This is the land of the free and many never came home (from wars). They have gained our most profound respect and gratitude.”
There are many words that describe a veteran, he added, including duty, honor, devotion, discipline, integrity and sacrifice.
Bayak said he believes the reason why World War II was won was because soldiers cared about each other.
“This was something (they) did automatically,” Bayak said, and used the words teamwork, commitment and responsibility to describe the camaraderie of veterans.
“A veteran also means an absence from home and that there are devoted mothers, fathers, family and friends who worry about them,” he added. “Veterans do not die for our country. Someone takes our lives because we are doing our jobs (for our country).”
Bayak added, “Some people in our community don’t feel the same way (about veterans) but we all should have a moral obligation to thank them and appreciate them for keeping our country free, so far.”
Bayak was also a guest speaker during a Veterans Day program Friday at Greencroft Assisted Living in Goshen. He said police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians should be honored as well as veterans.
“They take care of us,” he said. “I want to express gratitude and admiration to the 26 million veterans for serving our country.”
Bayak said during his presentation that U.S. President Woodrow Wilson ordered the flag to fly at full-staff and not half-staff on Veterans Day or Armistice Day as Bayak still refers to it.
“President Wilson said this was a time of celebration not of mourning,” Bayak said. “It’s an honor to serve our country regardless of the price we pay. For our comrades, it’s a moral obligation and their duty.”
Pete Seaver, a resident at Greencroft, shared his pride as a veteran before leading the audience in singing several patriotic songs.
“We didn’t want to do less than what we had to do,” Seaver said. “I think I speak for all of us (veterans) when I thank God for all my comrades in arms.”