For the last few years, I have served as the chaplain for the Department of Georgia, Marine Corps League (MCL). Part of my duties as chaplain for this veterans organization is to process the death notifications. Members of the Marine Corps League have served in all of our modern wars and some of them are getting older. It is estimated that 1,100 World War II veterans die each day. It is difficult to find estimates of how many Korean War veterans die daily, but 500 is the number most often cited. For the Vietnam War veterans, about 390 of them die each and every day.
Last year, 38 Marine Corps League members were reported as have been deceased. This, of course, only includes the USMC veterans who are part of our organization in the state of Georgia. Which means that I received and processed 38 “Notice of Death” announcements.
I log those notices, send a sympathy card to the surviving spouse, and forward the report to the national headquarters. Every three months, I prepare a report for the members of the Department of Georgia. Sometimes I know the person who has died. Sometimes I don’t.
I didn’t personally know the Marine whose Notice of Death came in the mail last Monday. I had never met him but I had seen him many times. I even read his book, “Corps Values: Everything You Need to Know, I Learned in the Marines.” I still have the book.
The author was Zell Miller, former governor of the state of Georgia and a Life Member of the MCL and of the Unicoi Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Zell Miller died on 19 April 2018.
The Marine Corps League is apolitical and non-sectarian. Yet, like most veterans, MCL members vote during the elections of the country they signed up to defend. Some even go into politics.
Zell was a Democrat. My family members were all Democrats and had been for generations until, in my family’s estimations, the Dems slipped off the track and lost their way in the weeds of leftism. When Richard Nixon ran against Hubert Humphrey, my family went for Humphrey. Four years later, when George McGovern was the Democratic nominee, nearly all of the family voted for Nixon.
For my part, I voted for Jimmy Carter when he ran against Gerald Ford. Four years later, after four years of a disappointing administration, I voted for Ronald Reagan. For the most part, that path, for me, has been maintained.
Back in the day, being a liberal meant you were for Kennedy, Johnson, or Humphrey. Being a Liberal today means something entirely different. So, I became an Independent and I stopped voting for Democrats.
Except for Zell Miller. Once I moved to Georgia 35 years ago, I began voting for this man, even before I knew he was a Marine. Zell Miller was the kind of Democrat my father and my grandfather supported. I could easily see him holding to the legacy of John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson … and Ronald Reagan. A conservative in many issues yet one who stood for equal rights, for self-determination, for offering a hand up rather than always a hand out. I saw him as a man of principle — an honest man. An honorable man.
Once I read his book, I understood that we held many ideas in common. We had the same values. We grew up in the same culture. We shared the same faith. We both loved this country. We were both U.S. Marine Corps veterans. I was honored to cast a vote for this Democrat, not because of his party affiliation … but because of the man.
He was a man my father would have respected and a man my grandfather would have admired. To Miller, his commitment to the nation outweighed his commitment to the party. That is a lesson that both Republicans and Democrats would be wise to learn.
So, I processed the notification, sent a copy to the H.Q., and sent a card to his dear wife Shirley. And I reflected on this man’s life and determined to find and to re-read “Corps Values” once again. I was proud that a man such as this and I had worn the same uniform.
President Reagan once said, “Some people wonder all their lives if they’ve made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.” Zell Miller made a difference. Semper fi, Marine.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Charismatic Episcopal Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U.S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]