Retired U.S. Navy Chaplain Cmdr. Phil Sumrall will open a special event around lunchtime Wednesday with a prayer in honor of a man he never met.
Richard "Lance" Deal will be laid to rest at 12:30 p.m. at the Chattanooga National Cemetery. He was 57.
You are invited, whether you knew Lance or not. In fact, many of the people who will be at the cemetery Wednesday for Deal's funeral service likely will be there to offer their thanks for his military service, and they did not know him.
Local good guy Mickey McCamish, a retired U.S. Navy captain, was contacted about Deal's death by the VA's Hud/Vash Homeless Program, a collaborative effort between the federal HUD and Veterans Affairs agencies to help veterans who are facing the worst of times after their service.
Want to help?
If you can’t attend Lance Deal’s funeral but want to help, donations can be made to Chattanooga Unite-Southeast Tennessee Veterans Coalition, Attn: Captain Mickey McCamish, 180 Hamm Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405
McCamish, like he has forever done, took the call and ran with it. Sure, McCamish has a soft spot for all of the folks who serve our country (we all should), but this one was different.
This one was personal.
"I met Lance on June 26," Mickey told me this week, "and he really was starting to turn his life around."
Now McCamish is asking our community to "show up and stand up for Lance."
Deal recently had found work at the Goodwill Senior Community Service Employment Program. He had demons - don't we all? But McCamish said he was turning the corner. He had found stable housing, he was trying to start over, he was only 57, for goodness sake, before his heart attack last week.
Deal's unknown family issues aside - he was estranged from his family - for McCamish, the sacrifice of being an Army veteran and serving his nation from 1982-86 is what matters most.
And that should matter for all of us. There are too many stories of our military service personnel who are all too willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for hardly free freedom struggle after leaving the service.
These stories are well-documented but McCamish believes there are feel-good moments - and lessons - in this.
First, there is Deal's willingness to put his life on the line for you, me and the rest of our country.
Second, there was the work that was put in to redirect Lance's life before it was cut short.
"This is such a positive of how the Veterans Administration, the Chattanooga Housing Authority, the Goodwill industries (Furniture Bank and Senior Community Employment Group), Chattanooga Funeral Home, which donated all their services - all members of the Veterans Coalition worked to change Lance's life," McCamish said. "We've all heard of the negative VA stories, but this is such a positive VA story. From my experience, they are wonderful, caring people, and Lance is a great example along with the Chattanooga Housing Authority and Goodwill Industries."
While he would never praise himself, allow me to remind you the works of McCamish, who has left no detail undone.
The Patriotic Guard Riders and local police will escort Deal's hearse to the national cemetery. Services at Shelter B will start at 12:30 p.m. Sumrall will pray and McCamish will introduce Bill Henry of Calvary Bible Church, Troy Bland of Orchard Park Seventh-day Adventist Church and Rodney Thompson of Hearth Hospice. Kimberly Crider will sing two hymns, with Sumrall closing the ceremony before a 21-gun gun salute from American Legion Post 95. The flag covering Deal's coffin will be given to Katie Schober, his caregiver.
Life never comes with a road map. And it's cliché to say, "We only have one life." It's true, but not completely accurate.
We have our life to live. But there's the life we plan for, the life we accept and the reality of what lies between.
Deal was dealing with his life the best he could. The scars of military service are not always visible. And the tolls paid by loved ones are not always viewed at a gravesite or sounded off with a solitary horn or three rounds of rifle fire.
His family relations and his past are side notes.
Wednesday is about service and honor.
Deal's service to his country. McCamish's service to honor Deal's service.
And what we all should be willing to do for those who serve.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.