Our morning began with colazione at Casa Papa Giovanni then a short meeting on the rooftop. We walked together along a beautiful trail single file with breathtaking views of Assisi below and to our right. It was a mindful walk of veterans accompanied by Candace Clemens who is a Gold Star mother. We stopped briefly to catch a breath and then on to the precipice of Rocca Maggiore. We stopped here in the shadow of a great fortress.
What followed was the most beautiful Memorial Day service I have ever attended. Fr. Conrad Torganski OFM led us in the singing of “On Eagles Wings” then Michele Trietley read Psalm 91. Michelle introduced Candace Clemens, Gold Star Mother of SSG Shawn Clemens who was killed in Afghanistan in January 29, 2004. It must have been very tough for her to recall the story of her last visit with her son and then recall the memories of his death and the family grief and mourning. Next, Shawn’s battle buddy Francisco Morales recalled his recollection of Shawn their shared service to our country and his death on the battlefield. Frank shared his own story of service and a series of events that led him to St. Bonaventure University and eventually being the guidance counselor Sergeant Clemens son who is now enrolled at St. Bonaventure in the ROTC program. As I looked around I saw many of us blinking back tears.
What followed at the invitation of Fr. Conrad was a litany of friends and family who had paid the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. As each person shared I was struck by the solemnity and sacred nature of the moment. I will never forget this special morning on the mountainside overlooking the Spoleto Valley in Assisi, Italy where a Gold Star Mother and American veterans paid tribute to our fallen comrades.
You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” He. will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day,or the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or the destruction that wastes at noonday.A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. – Psalm 91