Moving Day – Part 3

Author’s note: If you have not read the original story below, please take a moment to do so.  It will help you understand this story.

Moving Day

I stood staring at the modest brick building – white shutters framed the windows – a covered concrete pad held up by two columns lead you to the double doors that served as the entrance.  Another covered area was on the left-hand side of the building and parked there was the traditional black hearse.  I turned and looked in the parking lot again – just one car.  Silently I prayed, “Lord, are you sure this is the right place?”  Then I felt that unexplainable feeling that I was exactly where He needed me.  I removed my hat, ran my fingers through my hair, took my backpack off, placed it in my left hand with my hat, and opened the door.

On a small table in front of the coffin was an old picture of a young man in uniform.

The cool air caused me to shiver as I entered the foyer.  I thought to myself, “They keep these places so cold.”  I stood and listened.  From down the long hallway, I could hear the faint sound of someone crying.  Two doors on each side of the hallway told me that these were visitation rooms so that folks could walk in the first door and exit out the second door.  I slowly walked toward the door on my left and stood there.  Seated in front of a flag-draped coffin was a young woman holding a handkerchief to her mouth as she cried.  On a small table in front of the coffin was an old picture of a young man in uniform.  I had to squint to see the Marine Corps emblem on his cover.  I smiled to myself, quietly walked into the room, and took a position at a respectable distance behind the young woman.

“So, he was a Marine.”  My voice surprised her and she turned to size me up.  My dusty combat boots, blue jeans, a black tee-shirt with a Marine Corps emblem, and the words ‘Proudly Served,’ beard, and unkempt hair were probably not what she expected.  She stared for a long time.

Finally, she answered, “Yes, and he was proud of it.”

“As we all are – you know what they say.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.  Before the rest of the family comes, would you mind telling me about your Marine.”

Again, she buried her face in her handkerchief as tears began to slowly roll down her cheeks.  Finally, she gathered herself, “I am the only family Grandpa had left.  My husband had an important meeting today and our children had after school events so I am ‘the rest of the family.’

I looked around the room and saw a chair.  I retrieved it and placed it next to her.  I placed my backpack and hat on the floor and sat down next to her.  “I still want to hear about a fellow Marine.  Please tell me your name and then tell me about your Grandpa.”

Again, the long stare.  Finally, she realized I was not moving, “Heather,” as she extended her hand and I gave it a gentle shake.  “Grandpa was George Bowman – Corporal George Bowman at your service as he liked to say.”

Heather began to tell me of a young man who, against the wishes of his parents, dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War II.  He had been lucky to spend most of his early years in the states.  But at the end of 1943, he was shipped to England for a big mission.  It would become known as D-Day and he watched so many of his buddies die on Omaha Beach as they made the big push to get the Germans to withdraw from France.  Even though he was wounded, he dragged his fellow Marines who were shot to a small covered area to provide first aid before going back into the gunfire to get the next wounded comrade.  His actions earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.  He wanted to finish his enlistment but his wounds were so bad that he was medically discharged after a long stay in a Navy hospital.


Len Bernat
Len Bernat
LEN is a leader groomed by 20 years of molding and shaping by some of the finest leaders in the United States Marine Corps. Their guidance helped Len realize his full potential as he moved from an enlisted Marine to becoming an Officer of Marines. Len became known for being the leader who could turn any lackluster organization into a strong, functional unit. Upon his retirement, Len worked in several positions before finally starting a second career in governmental procurement. His experience and leadership skills enabled him to be recognized as the 2011 Governmental Procurement Officer of the Year for the Governmental Procurement Association of Georgia and opened doors for him to teach at many of the association’s conferences. Len was also called to the ministry and was ordained at Ashford Memorial Methodist Church in November of 1999. Today, Len is the Pastor of Maxeys Christian Church in Maxeys, Georgia. Len has been married to his wife, Hazel, for 36 years and they have three daughters, three grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Grab your copy of Len's new Book – Leadership Matters | Advice From A Career USMC Officer. Using his life experiences as examples, Len takes the eleven principles of leadership and the fourteen traits every leader should possess—which he learned during twenty years in the Marine Corps—and teaches the reader how he was molded and shaped by some of the best leaders the Corps had to offer.

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  1. Len – I’m sitting here with tears welling up in my eyes. I am not a religious person, but I have extremely gratitude for those who walk the talk. You did that for Heather and her grandpa, and, I suspect, on many others days. Thank you for your continued service.

    • Jeff – I officiated a funeral where only 2 relatives were in attendance. I wished I had known in advance so I could have gotten others to attend. This story – and it is fiction based on this sad situation – is what I wished could have been done so it is a lesson on how we should be remembering this generation.

    • Larry – Thank you so much – always good to be validated by a fellow “Strong Ink” storyteller.

    • Bharat – Thank you for your kind comments. But please know, this is just a story – my experiences and beliefs form the foundation so that the story has a strong lesson – but it is a story. If the reaction to this series is good, this may be my next book. Let me know what you think of the idea.

    • Anne – Thank you for your kind comment. The members of the greatest generation are dying every day – so said that our nation seems to have forgotten their sacrifice.

  2. That is as gorgeous a piece of writing as I can remember reading in quite some time. I love this story, Len, there is so much goodness and beauty captured here. Thank you for sharing it, it’s inspirational, poignant and powerful. Really, really well done.