The following is from my friend Steve Rice...a great brother in the Lord and a true servant who is well loved by many. It will show you just how truly amazing our Lord is and how intimate He is with those who love Him:
Thank you for asking me to share this.
When my brother Jerry first told me about the reading the names of thoseVeterans buried at Riverside National Cemetery, I knew it was something Iwanted to do. You see, our dad was buried there and it was the desire ofmy brother and I to give honor to him. In order to read the names of all148,000 service men and women, a minimum of 300 volunteers were required toperform this task. The Roll Call would start first thing in the morning onSaturday, May 16th and would continue throughout the day (24-hours/day) forthe next nine days, until Memorial Day, or until the name of each and everyservice person had been read aloud and honored. This was thefirst-of-it's-kind in the nation and over 500 people responded and chose totake part.
My brother and I were assigned the time of 9pm on Saturday, approximately 71/2 days into the Roll Call. We were told ahead of time, it would probablynot be possible to read the name of a specific loved one, since the nameswere computer-generated randomly, with over 1,500 pages of names requiredto be read. Even with this, we were still looking forward to our time ofbeing there.
At the cemetery just past the Visitor's Booth, on the left-hand side was agiant pond with flag poles next to it, and a flag flying at half-staff. Acemented patio area surrounded the flag poles with two sections covered bytarps: one for any visitors & guests, and the other to shade the elementsof those speakers who stood behind two podiums.
As I approached the venue, I could hear the names of those being read aloudover speakers. At the check-in table, Veterans were staffed to organizeand maintain decorum during the night-shift. These heroes wore their denimjackets, decorated with patches and badges that recognized their wareffort. Both men and women were there, some of which had ridden theirHarley's that were parked in an adjacent area. Their demeanor was humble,yet one could recognize their sense of purpose and commitment of beingthere.)
As I sat and waited my turn, I listened to the names of those being read.It began to overwhelm me as I realized each person I heard was someone nolonger alive, that had given the sacrifice of service to our country, andto you and me as well. It hit me as something very solemn and caused me tochoke inside.
When it was time, my brother and his son Josh took the first shift for 30minutes. I was assigned with another lady, the last-half of the hour. Iwas told afterwards, that every person's request to read would beaccommodated. Even if a person showed-up unexpectedly, all were stillallowed to take part, and none were turned away. This reminds me how theLord receives each one of us, turns none away, all who are heavy-laden,even when we have nothing to give.
When the time came close, we were escorted to seats just behind the podiumto await our turn. Before each reader was to begin, they are allowed toshare by introducing themselves and give honor and memory to their lovedone and their reason for being there. My brother, his family and I werethere to honor our dad, Jerome Rice, who served 18 months in the frontlines of Korea during 1952-1953, and was buried at Riverside NationalCemetery in February 2007.
Both speakers would then alternate reading names, with the last name, thenthe first. I was conscious of trying to speak loud and clearly, andpronouncing the names as best I could, not knowing if I was reading thename of a relative who was listening in the audience. As I read each name,I was determined to deliberately move the ruler slowly, which was used tokeep track of each line and name. As I turned each page, I was careful tomake sure that none were skipped. Not only were there names of men beingread, but names of many women as well. After my 30-minute allotment wasover (which seemed like a brief few moments to me), it did not seem that mytime had come to an end so soon. Just as in the time of our lives, ourlife goes by so quickly as a puff of smoke, that evaporates and then isgone, but God is conscious of our presence.
I would guess that during my shift, I had the privilege of reading roughly250 names, across 5 pages. Together with the other speakers, approximately1,000 names were being read aloud and honored each hour.
As we were being escorted back to our seats, it was asked of us what wethought of our just-completed time of service. It was 'awesome', I said.I was thankful and felt good to take part and be there with my brother andhis family, including his son who plans to join the Marine Corp soon afterhe graduates. My nephew was the one that my dad chose ahead-of-time toreceive the folded flag when it was presented with Military Honors. Iconsidered this an honor to be there myself , and a privilege and anopportunity the Lord gave me to take part in the ceremony.
When sharing this with my wife Pam, she reminded me in giving honor tothese servicemen, how similar it is to the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus.Because of Him, we have the kind of life we do and the hope we canexperience. It is a life with a future so promising to each one of us. Hedid this for all, but sadly not all recognize this fact. If the truth beknown, there is not one person on this earth who would choose a life apartfrom Christ, if they realized the consequences of their decision.
On a final note, I would like to mention that on the Thursday leading upto my turn in the reading the Veteran's names, I wanted to just drive-bythe cemetery and see the layout of what to expect to prepare for the daysahead. It seemed like the timing was right to leave straight after workon Thursday, instead of waiting the next day on Friday, the day before a3-day holiday weekend. As I was driving however, I thought it strange atthe time, that on the 8-9 mile stretch of Van Buren leading up to thecemetery (with up to at least 30 stoplights), I did not have to stop morethan one time before reaching my destination.
After I arrived and was quietly sitting and listening to the names, Irealized one of the speakers was doing the Roll Call just prior to the lastnames starting with the letter 'R'. Could it be, I thought , the name ofmy dad would be mentioned? What were the chances of that happening? Withover 148,000 names and over 200 hours of names being called, how would Iever know when I should be there?
As I heard my dad's name being called, "Rice, Jerome", I could not believe what I heard. It was overwhelming to be there in person when his name wasactually being called! I sat there a while, stunned for a few moments.When I walked up to the Administrator, a lady in charge of the afternoonshift, I mentioned to her what had just happened. She recognized theemotion in my voice and that this was such an extremely rare event tooccur. Then when the reader had completed, I knew I needed to thank himfor calling out my dad's name. After he sat down, I came up and sat nextto him. I realized I had tears in my eyes and was choked up when thankinghim not only for reading my dad's name, but for his service to our county.
For the longest time, we sat there and just listened to the next speakercalling out the names on their pages. He then patted me on the knee andasked my name. I found out his name was 'Vince Scarano' and told him Iappreciated what he did for me. He said it was not a coincidence, butprovidence that God wanted me there in person to hear my dad's name beingcalled. It was almost as if the Lord parted the 'highway and controlledthe stop-lights' in order for me to be there on time, at that moment, onthat day, to know that it was meant for me.
A few weeks earlier when my brother initially suggested we attend thisceremony, I had to turn down his request because I had previously committedto a church mission trip to Mexico. But when it was announced that thetrip had been postponed, I eagerly agreed to attend with my brother andtold him of my availability. For me, the Lord was divinely busy, closingone door and then opening another.
Later, as I stood above the grave where my dad and mom were laid to rest, Irealized it was one of those rare moments in life, when you know theCreator of the universe loves us so much yet He gets involved with thedetails of our lives. He oversees the big picture and yet so unmistakablycares about those little things that are be important to each of us. Heknew it would mean a lot to hear my dad's name, so he got me there. Atthat moment, I felt close to His presence and thankful He is in chargecompletely. God gives us those glimpses of Himself and a confirmation ofwhat we've known all along, of how much He loves and cares for us aboutevery aspect of our lives. Then I remembered the difficulties I was havingearlier in the week, it was as if He was reminding and showing that He isstill in control of all things, even when it may seem difficult oroverwhelming.
As I looked around, it was so quiet and peaceful, not long before thecommotion and activity of the upcoming holiday weekend. It was the perfecttime to be there and being there with Him, I didn't want to leave. Thatcloseness was a reminder of what He gives each of us, so 'that we know thatwe know that we know'. After we have those kinds of moments with Him, wethen 'come down from the mountain' and unless we remain diligent, itbecomes hard for us to recognize the presence of His Light. We still needto remember that while we are here on this earth, that darkness will besurrounding us again soon. However, He reminds us not to forget in thedarkness, what we learned in the closeness of being with Him in His light.
God bless you,