Last week I was able to keep a promise I’d made to my mother several years ago to visit my father’s grave at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL which is on the other side of the state. It’s about a 250 mile round trip.
Our previous cars had become cases of troubles and money pits. I rarely drove anywhere I didn’t HAVE to and even then I constantly worried we wouldn’t make it home. After finally giving up on the old cars and buying ourselves some reliable transportation we waited for the weather to cool down a little and then made plans to drive to Bushnell.
After picking up a nice bouquet of fall flowers. We used my new (my first) Garmin GPS navigator. I had set it to shortest distance as opposed to fastest time. The ride was a blast. We kept getting sent down narrow little county roads that were so off the beaten track they only had numbers instead of names but we arrived at Florida National Cemetery without once getting lost. We both were impressed that within moments of construction having closed off a ramp onto our route the GPS routed us through a handful of back streets and right back where we needed to be.
Florida National Cemetery is, as are most military cemeteries, a very well kept and beautiful site. I’ve really got to hand it to and thank the people who work there for making out visit a pleasant one. First was the gentleman at the visitor’s information center who helped me search for, find and print out a map showing where my father’s grave was.
We found the area my father was in without a problem but the cemetery doesn’t have a lot in the way of navigation aids. The markers are numbered on the back of the stones. But there’s are, sadly, a LOT of markers in each section. The second of the incredibly helpful people we met this day was a grounds keeper who was driving by and when I flagged him down spent ten minutes himself driving around the section before he found my fathers marker which was, unfortunately, just a couple rows in from the very far side of the section. When he heard my mother’s dismay at possibly not being able to make it all the way out there he said he could radio in and have someone come out with a golf cart to take us to his marker. He spent several minutes trying to raise someone on the radio and when that didn’t work he said he would go to the visitor’s information center and send someone back to help us.
Just as I was about to make the walk across the cemetery alone to put the flowers on my father’s grave while my mom watched from a bench the next incredibly nice and helpful person, a retired Navy veteran, showed up in her golf cart. She drove us around the cemetery helping us find a plastic vase for the flowers and filling it with water. She then drove us right out to my dad’s marker. Not only did she move the cart so I could take a few photos she also set up the vase and helped arrange the flowers in it. When my mom said she was ready to go our aide asked if mom was sure and assured us she would stay with us as long as we needed. She dropped us off at our car, told us she hoped we had a good visit and drove off with a smile. Without her I don’t think mom would have been able to make it to my dad’s marker. I cannot thank her enough for making our goal possible.
We stopped for a quick lunch and then had a quite and uneventful ride back to our side of the state… well, except for the fact that the car was on E about 50 miles from home. Amazingly I pushed it and got to the local Shell station I buy all my gas from with about 2 gallons left in the tank.
Hawk (promise keeper)