Connie and I arrived for Ed Meendering’s funeral just minutes before it was scheduled to begin and were seated in the front row, right behind the pews reserved for the family.

Ed built our Sibley home 14 years ago. During our many meetings on the construction I learned to respect him for his commitment to quality, peaceful approach to differences and personal commitment to family, country and Christ.

Our being nearly late for the funeral wasn’t unusual. Connie and I can’t seem to get our schedules aligned and this particular time we had to drive back to Sibley from Okoboji for the midmorning service.

Our timing was providential, however, because the row just ahead of us was reserved for the attending military honor guard. They entered just before the family, each uniformly dressed in a white shirt, matching ties and dark pants. All the men, as they sat down, placed their hat, laid flat, neatly on their laps.

Glancing down the row of 11 men I realized I knew most of them, something of their military history and various local connections. Some, I was later told, were members of the local American Legion Post. Others were members of Sibley’s VFW. Two of the 11, I was informed, were members of both veteran organizations.

With our remaining World War II veterans being deceased, the group was mostly veterans of the Vietnam War, one had served in the Korean War and another was a retired career veteran. And a third did his active service during a relativity peaceful time.

I recognized that two were Presbyterians and at least one attends the Christian Reformed Church. There were a couple whom I think are members of the Reformed Church and one that I think worships at the Congregational Church. A mixture of many churches represented.

One of the honor guard was a retired cooperative manager, another works overseeing the care of manufacturing machinery with some of the men retired. As a group they represented a variety of occupations.

The point is, the men in the honor guard had all come from various military experiences, represented various work backgrounds, were a range of ages and from many religious affiliations. I suspect they also represented different political parties and opinions.

Yet, in a time when our nation is so divided, so motivated by the national media, internet punsters and even Russian interlopers to divide, these men — all whom had earlier served in the military to protect our freedom and national beliefs — stood once again in unity. And in doing so they gave me hope that we soon can find our way to national unity, overcoming the many obstacles of gender, color, class, false reporting and political separation that we are experiencing.

And as President Donald Trump often says: “Make America great again.”

Peter W. Wagner lives in Sibley. He is the founder/publisher of The N’West Iowa REVIEW and may be reached at