By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
What’s in the heart of a Marine and all other servicemen and women was made clearer through the message of the Very Reverend Jeffery Bame at the Co-Cathedral of The Sacred Heart in Houston on Sunday.
Gathered in the vestibule at Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston were men dressed in their Marine dress uniform and women with red blazers and green caps. They had come to celebrate the first annual Veterans Mass at the co-cathedral. Each one had served our nation as a United States Marine.
The Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston honored American veterans and celebrated the United States Marine Corps 248th birthday on Sunday. Veterans and their families from the Galveston-Houston area were in attendance.
The ceremony was organized by Semper Fi #3 Memorial Honor Detail. The honor detail is best known for its service in providing final honors to all veterans in Harris County. But Sunday was a day the members organized to help recognize living veterans.
One of the retired Marines read for the audience an order that was written by Maj. Gen. John Lejeune in 1921. The order summarized the history, traditions, and mission of the Marine Corps. This order is now read at all Marine Corps Birthday celebrations which fall every year on November 10, just one day before Veterans Day.
The Very Reverend Jeffery Bame, pastor and rector of the co-cathedral asked everyone to honor all veterans with two moments of silence and then the procession began.
The procession to enter the sanctuary of the priest, deacons, and altar servers, was led by men and woman who had served in the United States Marines. They also led the procession at the end of the service.
Former Marine Sgts Dolores Mendiola and Johnny Camnillo served as readers of from the Holy Scripture.
Though the celebration was at a Catholic Mass, not all the Marines who participated were Catholic. What united them was their time serving as a United States Marine.
Retired Master Sgt. Salinas spoke to the congregation, sharing the importance of continuing to serve our nation even after leaving the military.
His words were similar to what each Marine had shared about their commitment to continue serving as a civilian.
When asked as they were gathered in a group why they continued to serve as volunteers, it was almost in unison that they answered.
“We continue to volunteer for our communities together as Marines because of the comradery and brotherhood that we developed in the Marines.”
What the Marines did not say was that they had taken a vow to always be faithful. Bame explained in his homily the significance of Semper Fidelis as always being faithful, both as a solider in the military and as a servant of God.
Speaking about the New Testament reading, Mathew 25:1-13. Bame compared the readiness of the wedding attendants in Christ’s parable to that of the readiness of a solider.
His message went beyond military service as he compared the oil in the lamps of the wedding attendants to the love and commitment to serve each other that God requires of each of us.
He explained that our love, willingness, and commitment to serve is like the oil in the attendants’ lanterns, those whose oil had gone dry were not ready to serve. We need to keep our love, commitment and willingness always filled. We all must be always faithful and ready, just as a Marine is always faithful.
Veterans of all ages and all branches of the military received a rosary that had been blessed during the service by Father Bame. The rosaries were provided through a contribution from a Lay Dominican with the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapter of the Southern Province of Dominicans.
The service in honor of Veterans and the Marine Corps birthday is partly due to a man fondly known as “Gunny” and more formally known as retired USMC Gunnery Sgt, Andrew Ortiz. He is a familiar face at the church, a devout Catholic and always a Marine. Currently, he serves as the founder and CEO of Semper Fi #3 and invites families of veterans who seek a final military honor for their loved ones to reach out at www.semperfithree.com. If you were a Marine and would like to join the honor detail, you, too are invited to reach out to Gunny via the website.