Spice Up Your Obituary

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

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Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)-  I am a retired Air Force policeman and former civilian police officer.

One of the bad habits of a cop I developed was reading the obituaries on a daily basis. Cops are looking to see if any of their old customers are no longer in the game.

In the world of Total Quality Management you learn about just-in-time management. Obituaries can give you a just-in-time last look at how some folks managed their former lives.

The Navy had a recruiting commercial in the past. The subject of the commercial was “if they wrote a book about your life-would anyone read it?” “He was born, he went to school, he got a job, married and then he died.” Pretty uninspiring life I would assume.

Most of the obituaries I read are for folks, of the World War II and Korean War era. A time in US history when this country had a draft and by virtue of that draft, a lot more Americans traversed the military then they do now.

“Indecision is the key to flexibility,” a phrase used often by my father, the old Navy Master Chief. If you do not have to make a major life choice and you don't, you have still made a choice. By not deciding one way or the other about joining the military you have in fact made a choice.

I attended eleven schools in my K-thru-12th grade education because of my father's naval career. The military made my family move and this forced me to meet new people and learn new things, whether I wanted to or not. Thanks to dad's career my obituary was pretty well fleshed out before I was out of college. Then I joined the Air Force and my obituary really got fleshed out.

After retiring I followed my active duty Air Force wife around the country until she retired. My obituary is getting even better.

In most cases an obituary is the last written record of a person's life history. Kind of sad when the last thing written is “Fred was on the company bowling team.

Unfortunately women fare even worse than men do when it comes to obituaries. “She was the daughter of, the wife of, the mother of–we will miss her.” That is all right I guess, but it is a little dry.

I enjoy reading the obituary of an older woman that says “she was a WAVE in the US Navy and served in the Pacific during WW II, or she was a 30 year career Army Officer.” With so many women in today's military, there will be a lot more, interesting obituaries for women in 50 or 60 years.

Some veterans believe they have already done what it takes to have an excellent obituary, but they can do more. It is time to start steering our children and grandchildren into the military. Without a draft, some of these young people will never make that major life decision and they are in great need of guidance from the old veterans in this country. Now if you have never been in the military, there are other ways to serve your country. The Coast Guard, Air Force and the Army have uniformed-civilian auxiliary and / or reserve organizations you can join. There is the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Air Force-Civil Air Patrol and the Army Guard has the State Defense Force / Militia programs.

These organizations wear uniforms, follow military rules & protocol and serve their local community. They provide a way for you to assist your nation in peacetime and even more importantly in time of crises.

“Chief Master Sergeant John Doe served his nation for over 20 years in the Air Force-Civil Air Patrol” sounds so much more meaningful in an obituary than “Fred liked to fish on weekends.”

I ask again, if someone did write that book about you–would it be interesting enough to read? For that matter, would your life be interesting enough for someone to spend the time writing your story?

The bottom line is you have to lead a meaningful & interesting life in order to have a meaningful & interesting obituary. Just maybe the active duty, the guard & reserve or one of the military's uniformed-civilian-organizations can help you serve others and in so doing, help you develop an interesting life and an interesting obituary.

Memorial Day weekend is coming and there are many we honor, who have left us an interesting obituary in their service to our nation. They deserve to be well remembered in our thoughts and prayers, but also in the written history of their lives, so future Americans can remember what these men and women did to keep us safe.

Write it down now, to remember later. “We buried another Veteran today-it seems all my life it happens that way.”

Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

  • One thought on “Spice Up Your Obituary

    1. Thanks for your service. Please accept the rest of my comments as sincerely written as my thanks:

      Be careful you don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. There are plenty of ways to serve our fellow man, and military service is good, but clearly not for everyone.

      Additionally, having served does make an individual automatically saintly. Since military members are also human they are capable of evil. Leavenworth is ample testimony to that.

      While I am proud of my time in the Air Force, I don’t anticipate it taking much space in my obit. I have lived a full life and been blessed by terrific friendships and a loving family, and to me, that is a life well lived.

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