This past Saturday, we had a very moving burial service for my brother Paul Richard Williams, who had long been an expatriate living in Berlin, Germany. He had served in the U.S. Army in Berlin when it was still a divided city.

Because of his military service and connections to the military after he finished his service, we decided that it was important to include the appropriate military ceremonies. The U.S. Army sent two active-duty soldiers to perform the flag ceremony. The Fairmont VFW send a speaker, bugler, and a rifle squad.

The announcement for the ceremony clearly stated that masks were required to attend the ceremony.

This was because of the rising danger of COVID-19 infection from the Delta variant, including breakthrough infections and deaths even for those who were vaccinated, and the attendance of several senior citizens with compromised lung function.

I brought a box of KN-95 masks for anyone who was without a mask when they arrived, and everyone masked … with one exception – the speaker from the VFW.

He refused to take the mask I offered him, explaining that he “was not a Democrat.”

My mind was not as sharp as it normally is since I was burying my brother. Had I been more focused on safety, I would have told him:

“You have a choice, you can wear a mask, or you can leave. You can embarrass yourself and the VFW in front of the active-duty Army soldiers and all of Paul’s assembled relatives, or you can simply put on the mask. You need to know I organized this ceremony and I paid for it. I make the rules.”

A funeral ceremony is no place for politics. My dear far-right Republican brother, the Baptist minister he brought for the funeral, and the rest of the contingent from the VFW took the offered masks and wore them through the service. This one “not a Democrat” who refused to wear a mask was the low point in an otherwise solemn and respectful service.

James F. Williams


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