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Cummings & Goings X by Jim Cummings

May 26, 2007 07:29 PM

Arlington
 
This is a little off the beaten path, but it has a tennis connection and it does have relevance on this Memorial Day weekend  and for our country today. Late last year, I attended a full military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery for my friend and long-time USTA Mid-Atlantic Section associate, Walter Freeman. Walt was a retired Captain, United States Navy. The only thing I know about his service record is that at one time, he commanded a flotilla of ships. Walt would later command the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section as its president. I served on several Mid-Atlantic boards and committees with Walt. He was as nice a guy as you could ask for and a fine, competitive tennis player.
 
The day of the interment at Arlington, I left my north Baltimore home in Towson early to drive to the Army/Navy Club to meet and ride with my friend and sometimes doubles partner, Lloyd South and his wife, Inge, But as luck (all bad) would have it, I ran into a backup on the north Baltimore beltway, then another one at the Harbor Tunnel and then spent an hour sitting on 95 waiting for an accident to clear. Meeting Lloyd and Inge at the club was no longer an option as it was getting perilously close to the time for the service to start at Arlington. Time for Plan B.
 
Suffice it to say that I got to the Fort Meyer Chapel at Arlington after the service had started.
It took some doing. Getting to Arlington was one thing. Finding out where the service was being held and how to get there was another. There are three chapels at Arlington and ongoing interments all day long.  I stopped at the visitors center and after explaining my mission, was directed to the administrative center, a short ride down the road. The people there, as indeed all the personnel I dealt with that day at Arlington, could not have been more considerate and helpful.
 
How to describe the many ceremonies within the ceremony of Walt's funeral would take more telling than I am capable. Some 50 military personnel were in attendance including those manning the horse drawn caisson, the band, the honor guard, the firing squad, the chaplain and the Scottish bagpiper whose haunting strains of Amazing Grace carved a niche in my memory. One ceremony alone, the folding of the American flag that covered the casket, took several minutes for the honor guard to perform. The flag was then presented to Walt's widow, Elaine (also a past president of Mid-Atlantic). The whole was a fitting tribute to one of our country's finest.
 
Many thoughts run through your mind while all this is taking place and the one that has stayed with me and the one I want to share with you now is this. The country that we are so privileged to call ours did not come without a price. And that price is still being paid. The countless rows of silent, white crosses give mute testimony to the high, dear cost of freedom. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have not come without great sacrifice  Each year, millions of Americans make the pilgrimage to Washington to get an understanding and appreciation of what our country is all about. They visit the many tributes and memorials to the men and women who have helped make our country great. To those who make this quest, I suggest they start at Arlington. All else falls in line.

By:  Jim Cummings 5/25/2007 

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court
   zjimc@msn.com

 

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