We discovered that some of those soldiers found comfort in visiting with us and telling us about their family and special dogs that were going to reunite with in a few days.
I spent six years in the Army National Guard, and with Stuart’s recent experiences, I thought he could be counted as a veteran also. So did the school’s staff, which welcomed Stuart.
As Stuart and I were settling into our seats, I noticed that Deborah Stevens was seated in front of us. I drove the bus that transported her children to school. Then, Amanda Upton, another mom I had met while driving that route, approached. The two ladies started talking, and it appeared that Amanda was in tears.
Amanda then noticed us and stepped back to talk with us. She explained that she had just received a telephone call informing her that her father, Navy veteran Albert L. Upton, was being taken to a hospital in Bloomington. He had just suffered a heart attack or a stroke or both. She was trying to figure out how to deal with this terrible news. Her daughter, Karli Butler, was scheduled to pay tribute about her grandfather. Amanda decided to stay for a while. Shortly before the program started, my wife, Lyn, showed up.
Karli read a personal narration honoring her grandfather; it was beautiful and gave me cold chills. One could almost see Albert Upton standing in his full dress uniform, smiling as he listened to his granddaughter.
When Amanda learned that her father was unresponsive, she and Karli departed for Bloomington.
The guest speaker, Beech Grove resident Joe Prindle, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. Both men performed their roles well. The fifth-grade choir, the Singing Bees, sang several patriotic songs.
I had been thinking about all the personal connections I had with the families of Amanda Upton and Debby Stevens and honoring Amanda’s father as he was rushed to a hospital. At that point, “Taps” was performed by Abbie Riedeman, a student at Beech Grove High School and a former rider of Bus No. 5, which I drove.
Her rendition of “Taps” made me feel that for a time, everyone in that building was honoring Albert. I tried to catch Abbie after she finished to thank her, but I guess she needed to get back to school.
I later learned that Albert had not survived his medical emergency. Amanda and her family did not arrive before he died. I was sad to hear that, but it made me feel stronger that it was him I felt in the building during the program.
Nov. 11, 2014, will always be a special day.