At the funeral of my cousin’s son who was killed in Iraq, emotions ran deep.
As I stood in the back of the funeral home listening to the stories about this young man with a huge heart I was moved to tears. An honorable man who loved everyone he met, loved playing the guitar and loved making a difference in the lives of others by serving in the army. He was an American Hero.
He was an American Hero as a soldier
His wife, mother, father, sisters, brother, grandfather and grandmothers now wear the Gold Star for their sacrifice. I will be eternally grateful to all the men and women who have given their lives so that we may be free. The service was distinguished and honorable, with Patriot Guard Riders standing in respect throughout the visitation and funeral. The room hushed as they came forward to say their final goodbyes, especially the final Patriot Guard; a World War Two veteran that saluted Mike’s casket. The image of the Patriot Guard Riders standing with the US flags, then riding with the motorcade to Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery for his final resting place is imbedded in my memory.
Never have I been so proud to be an American.
He was an American Hero as a brother, son and husband.
As we drove through Homer Glen, Lockport, New Lenox, Joliet and Elwood the streets were lined with hundreds of people. Young and old, walkers and strollers, boy scouts and soccer players to honor a fallen hero. Businesses stopped and employees stood at the street under their company signs that were changed to read “In memory” or “We miss you”. People on the streets held handmade signs with “Thank you for your sacrifice”, “God bless Mike”, “Our hero” and just miles and miles of American flags. It was so touching to see so many people, some that may not have even know Mike, taking time out of their day to stand on the streets in respect. Then we would pass fields with no one and suddenly at the end of a farm-house driveway would be a single person standing and saluting the 200 cars, or a woman, dog at her side, right hand on her heart and left hand holding a flag, alone but honoring another. Then, there was a mother and her two sons, in their Boy Scout uniforms with flags in Homer Glen, then they appeared again in New Lenox – they must have got in their car and traveled on back streets to get in front of the procession to honor Mike twice. A mother teaching her sons about committment, dedication and honor…a message they will never forget. Nothing is more important than honoring our heroes and paying our respects. I have known that my whole life, but I felt it deep in my heart today.
At the cemetery, six soldiers carried Mike’s casket to his final resting place, as everyone encircled the family with love. The 21 gun salute, the folding and presenting of the American flag and the bugle rendering Taps, brought everyone to a somber reality of this final goodbye. As I wiped my eyes, I saw something moving from the corner of my eye and I looked up. Past the lines of the uniformed headstones there was a grove of trees and beautifully soaring in a circle above the trees were three hawks. Then a fourth hawk flew towards the group and they flew off together. I believe this was the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, soaring to bring Mikey home. And off he went with the Trinity to his true home. Faith and Life in the ultimate image.
I know how touched I was by the outpouring of honor, respect and love – I can only imagine what Mike’s wife, parents and siblings felt.
Today I was so proud to be an Olivieri and more importantly humbled and proud to be an American! May the faith of Mike’s family and the prayers of a community comfort them in their grief.
On behalf of a grateful nation…God bless you Mike!!