Never, in all the 78 years of my life, have I seen such a spontaneous outpouring of people who filled the streets and sidewalks for blocks around First Baptist Church for the funeral service of Spc. Sterling Wyatt, native son and fallen hero of Columbia. No dictator had ordered them there, it was not a sports event or national disaster. It was love and gratitude for the sacrifice of this 21-year-old, who gave all for his country, and for his grieving family. It was an act of protection for the grieving family, and of righteous indignation against that nest of vipers from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., who vowed to ruin the service with their ungodly, vile protest.
Those people wearing red, or holding our American flag, or riding bikes, were not protesters; they were protectors. They are the strong, the committed (some traveling hundreds of miles) — black or white, tall or short, fat or slim, muscular or frail, young or feeble with age, and everything in-between, and from all religions; they were there to defend the defenseless. They are the American Spirit incarnate; they are righteous indignation in action; "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." And they brought their children, giving them a lesson in what it means to be an American, and for many, a believer.
And a special kind of generosity was there. A man who I have never seen offered me ice water; many came prepared to share with others. I saw small acts of courtesy, of consideration, of kindness in looks exchanged as well as in deeds.
Spc. Sterling, Saturday was your day; great kings would give half their kingdom for what you were so unstintingly given Saturday by those who were there, and who regret that it will never be enough to equal what you and your family have given a grateful and grieving nation.
Miss Nan The Elder, circa 1933
Nan C. Collins is a Columbia resident.