For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. – 2 Corinthians 5:1.

My brother-in-law Tom’s late father was a decorated Navy captain who served his country with distinction. He was a good man, but I’m not going to eulogize him so much as talk about what I learned from my first military funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery.

I knew Arlington was a big deal, but it wasn’t until I watched Paul McMahan’s coffin being transferred from hearse to horse-drawn caisson—under the watchful eye of a guard of honor and a military band—that I began to understand the level of respect and the depth of relationship forged between those who wear a uniform and the nation they have sworn to protect.

My brother-in-law lost his father in January, just two days after his wife passed away. But the logistics of such an occasion require time, and the family were finally able to say goodbye this past month. Rebekah and I were there to represent the Alexander side of the family.

The ceremony, the music, the salutes, the care, the gravity, the precision and the authenticity all coalesced into a funeral that impressed me deeply and commented not just on the man but on this nation, the United States of America.

Everything possible was wrapped into the ceremony, including faith in God, history, tradition, belief, liberty, democratic ideals, war and sacrifice, peace, decency, respect and the yearnings of all people for a place where freedom still rings with such clarity and perseverance.

What I saw at Arlington was respect. Respect for the deceased, yes; respect for the institutions that keep us free, absolutely; but respect also for one another—for those serving and for those of us who are civilians; respect for government, and leadership, and respect for process.

God help us if we lose any more of this respect for one another – DEREK

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Derek Maul has written for many news outlets, including the Tampa Tribune, The United Methodist News Service, All Pro Dad, FOCUS Magazine, Newsweek, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, Presbyterians Today, Guideposts, Chicken Soup for the Soul and many other publications. Read Derek Maul’s daily blog posts at