America the beautiful . . . home of the free and the brave. These well-known descriptions of our country were on display this Saturday as hundreds gathered to honor the life of Specialist Christopher Stark, a Monett soldier who died while serving his country in Afghanistan.
Freedom defines America, and freedom is often a double-edged sword. Those who would protest at the funeral of a soldier represent the evil side of freedom while those who travelled from near and far to protect a grieving family from these very type of protests represent all that is good and decent in our country. Our constitution protects both groups, and again, that's what makes America great, whether we like it or not.
Saturday's outpouring of patriotism and support is a sign that the good guys greatly outnumber the bad in America. Sometimes out national news media distorts that truth and makes it seem as if the decent American doesn't stand a chance. But that is just not true.
In times of tragedy, America's true colors always shine through. All week leading up to Christopher Stark's funeral and burial, the newspaper office fielded phone calls from people wanting to show their support for the soldier from Monett and his family. They wanted to be sure this young man who made the ultimate sacrifice was laid to rest with the dignity and solemnity that his sacrifice deserved. These calls came from people of all ages, and their desire to honor Christopher Stark made me proud to be an American.
On the day of Specialist Stark's funeral, the road leading into Jolly Mill was lined on both sides with flag-bearing members of the Patriot Guard and others who stood side by side to show their respect and keep the peace. Many people also gathered along the route taken by the funeral procession carrying Stark's casket. These individuals could be seen saluting the fallen soldier as he passed by. Many took the time to send me photos of the procession and the gathering at the funeral service. These citizens also shared with me how deeply the events touched them. In each case, these individuals said they were proud to be an American and they appreciated the sacrifices made by those who serve in the military.
Specialist Stark's funeral is also a stark reminder that we should never forget those serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan and all around the world. These brave men and women are modern day heroes who deserve our prayers and our support. God bless our troops and God bless America.
- Lisa Schlichtman