Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with many of you through our various organizations, during many of the diverse events in which I have been involved, and just by bumping into you and your families while out and about on the island. A friend of mine once told me I’d stop to have a conversation with a “dead dog in the middle of the road.” That is probably a little exaggerated, but pretty close to the truth.
I consider friendship as one of the greatest gifts one can offer to another. Friends can make you feel better if you’re down, and help to lift your spirits when you need it the most. Stress and lifestyle choices can be handled better as a result of those relationships we value the most.
I, like you, have had times of great joy, and experiences which cause us to be brought to some of the lowest points in our lives. The ability to be yourself around a true friend without being judged is truly a great blessing.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to join with a number of those I feel have been friends of mine for upwards of 35 years here on Marco. We lived within a small condominium complex when I first purchased here on the island. Over those many years, I’ve watched their families grow up, and observed they themselves handle issues in their lives with grace and dignity.
A number of us traveled up I-75 to Sarasota, FL, to see the remains of Christopher Walsh laid to rest at the Veterans’ Cemetery there. That facility is one of 153 such resting places which the Veterans Administration runs within the United States to honor those who have served this great nation of ours.
The Department of Veterans Affairs maintains those special places in 42 states and Puerto Rico, as well as 34 soldiers’ lots and monument sites. There are nine such Veterans’ Cemeteries located in Florida. The largest of these fitting resting places is Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
If you have not had the opportunity to visit one of these outstanding tributes to the men and women of our nation who have served in uniform, you should. I had the honor of being with my father’s brother, my Uncle Chris, when he was laid to rest at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL, after he passed several years ago and was laid to rest. My dad’s sister Patricia was also buried in the Veterans’ Cemetery not far from where we grew up, as she and her sister Julia and her husband Sal also served during World War II, but interred in the National Cemetery near their home in San Diego, CA.
When my father was laid to rest in 1966, it was in our city cemetery in Concord, NH. The New Hampshire Veterans’ Cemetery was not opened until 1997. On my trips back to New Hampshire, each year it has become a traditional stop to pay my respects to my entire family, all of whom served in World War II.
Of the 584,000 U.S. Veterans who passed in 2019, 20 percent (113,365) were interred in the U.S. and Puerto Rico in a national, state or tribal Veterans’ Cemetery.
It was an honor to be there to see Chris laid to rest, with his family and many of his friends from Marco who made the trip north on I-75 to celebrate the life and contributions of a man whom we all felt proud to call our friend. His bold personality will be missed around the pool at the place I called home for so many years here on Marco Island.
Many more of those friends gathered late on Monday afternoon to raise our glasses to Chris, a man who we were honored to call our friend. I am sure he was smiling down upon us as we sat at Kretch’s and reminisced about our friend – the person who would honor us with the title of “friend,” who will stay with us in our hearts and in our memories until we meet again.
God Speed, Christopher Walsh, our wonderful friend from New York.