Editor’s Note: Ramona resident Pat Kiernan wrote this tribute after standing at Seventh and Main Streets for three and a half hours Saturday morning, waiting for the funeral procession that would take the remains of Cpl. Eugene “Mackie” Morelli, listed as missing in action in the Korean War, to his burial place on the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation.
By Pat Kiernan
I would like to start off by saying a very heartfelt “thank you” to all who have served this still-great country in which we live. Thank you to those who have had to fight, risk everything and have made the ultimate sacrifice.
The special event of Ramona’s and other neighboring communities’ citizens lining up on Main Street on Saturday morning to honor one of our community members who gave his life in the service of his/our country was the right thing to do. My father was in the Korean War and, though he rarely talked about it, I do remember asking him to tell me one of his experiences when I was about 10 years old. He made it short, but what he said was that one day about 30 members of his platoon went out to take a hill and only nine returned alive. My mother told me years later that my father told her that he was lying on the ground behind tree roots while the bullets were hitting the tops of the roots.
We owe it to our heroes to never forget and to honor their sacrifices by striving to keep this country great. We must hold strong to the values on which the United States was founded.
Friday morning, I received an e-mail from the office of Sen. Joel Anderson about the funeral procession that would take place on Saturday morning along Main Street in Ramona. The message asked if we could honor Corporal Eugene “Mackie” Morelli, whose remains had finally been identified from the Korean War, by lining up along Main Street at 8:30 a.m., while the funeral procession went by. Cpl. Morelli was to be buried in Mesa Grande.
I thought it would be a beautiful way for us to honor him and his family, as has been done with other war heroes. I copied and posted the request on Facebook, and my wife and other friends also posted it. Some of the local news and radio stations also mentioned it.
After the heavy rain on Friday, we had a cool Saturday morning and I wanted to get on Main Street early so I didn’t miss anything. At 7:55 a.m., I parked next to Packards at Seventh and Main and I made it a point to get a good spot right in front of a flagpole and then I proceeded to wait and watch.
At 8:15, I was still waiting. I didn’t see anyone else standing by the curbs, only me. Finally, around 8:20, people start slowly trickling in on both sides of the street. As I looked down the block for the start of the procession, I could see groups of people by the curbs and some people honked their horns as they drove by.
At about 8:50 a.m. there was a highway patrol car parked by the corner and we were still waiting and talking. All of a sudden, a box truck drove past with a picture of a flag and a statement about honoring our fallen heroes on its side. I thought “Oh, we missed it!” A few seconds later, I figured out that that wasn’t it.
Still waiting about 9:30 a.m., we see yellow lights blinking down the road coming toward us, so we call out “This is it! Get ready everyone!” The vehicles get closer and there is a brief moment of silence and wonder, until we realize that we are looking at a tow truck carrying a car—fooled again!
Around 10 a.m., people are starting to leave and word comes out that a family member was late and the procession will be passing soon. All of a sudden, a block away, we notice a car being pushed out of the center of the road and a few seconds later a police car goes to that intersection with its lights on and for a moment we think they are finally coming, but then we realize this is just another false alarm.
At 10:25 a.m., we have almost given up and then the procession finally arrives.
The police cars cleared the traffic and those of us who remained, lined up along the curb, put our right hands over our hearts and stood respectfully while the procession drove by. I could see a woman in one of the first cars crying as she looked at us while being driven past the crowd. There were some family members following and videotaping us while they were riding in the procession.
Cars and many motorcycles followed and for a few moments I felt as one with all those who were honoring Cpl. Morelli.
In the difficult political times we are experiencing in our great country, it is nice to see this display of honor and respect that we feel for those who are willing to do what our country asks of them at the risk of paying the ultimate price. May God bless them all!