Every day starts a new story. The death of Fred Phelps reminds me that the evil his kook-regation started by protesting veterans' funerals gave rise to one of the best organizations, the Patriot Guard.
I had a close encounter with the Guard at the funeral of my friend Hershel A. McCorkle’s father, Hershel D. McCorkle. The elder McCorkle was a combat infantryman, wounded in World War II’s Hürtgen Forest. PFC McCorkle was a humble man who worked at Remy, could fix anything, would rather be fishing, chose a great wife, endured rearing four children, served and respected God and country, and never saw himself as a hero.
Hershel’s calling was a reminder of those things. The line was long and constant. His funeral was packed. The Patriot Guard was thick with flags, presence, and respect. I was deeply moved by that presence and respect as I exited the viewing. I thanked them for posting the guard and one of them said “He was a hero.” I wanted to tell him how much of a hero PFC McCorkle had been, but I choked on the words and responded with an inadequate, “Yes, he was.”
At the funeral I mentally confirmed that thought. We interviewed Hershel 12 years ago. Three items from that visit stood out. The first was Hershel’s telling of his final hours with his dad as he was dying. There was such a depth of feeling as he described those last moments, the same I felt when I lost my dad, and the same loss my best friend Hershel felt that day. The second memory was when he met Maxine at a dance in Tipton. “I walked in and she hit my eye, so I walked over to her and asked her to dance.” She said she didn’t square dance. Hershel responded, “You will tonight.”