Cpl. John C. Bishop laid to rest

Wanda English Burnett

More than 600 people filled the Versailles Baptist Church spilling over into the family life center to pay their final respects to fallen Marine Cpl. John Bishop last Thursday, September 16.

Outside the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders took their posts with large American flags waving in the breeze. The Patriot Guard Riders stand between the family of the fallen military person and protestors should any attend. None attended at Versailles last week.

Also waiting outside was Steve Thompson of Dearborn County. His handmade caisson pulled by a single sleek black horse, would escort the marine to his final resting place in the Cliff Hill Cemetery.

“This is the third funeral I’ve used the caisson for since it was completed this year,” Thompson told the Osgood Journal. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Thompson said it was his honor and privilege to serve the family.

The service was somber with friend, guard and brother Marine SSGT Thomas Praxedes speaking. “Honestly, I don’t have a prepared speech,” he told the crowd. He said he was more than an escort for his fallen brother, “Marines know him by heart,” he said.

“It is humbling to see a community bond together,” he said. While he told of a “goofy, funny guy” in Cpl. Bishop, he also said, “Make no mistake - he was fierce in combat.” The staff sergeant closed with the warrior’s prayer.

Officiating minister Bob Lay knew Cpl. Bishop as a “kid” and told the crowd that he saw “John” as he referred to Cpl. Bishop, find his way to the Lord and make a commitment. He said at one youth event, a prayer declared John would be a warrior. “He gave it all,” Pastor Lay said. He read the scripture from John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

A large number of veterans representing 18 different legions, VFW posts and various agencies filed into the church and saluted the fallen marine. The effort was coordinated by the Versailles American Legion Post #173 with veterans attending from Columbus, Seymour, Aurora, Milan, Madison, Batesville, Rising Sun and St. Leon. State officials from the Indiana American Legion attended along with state and local government officials.

Except for the soft pawing of the horses outside, you could have heard a pin drop as the body of Cpl. Bishop was carried out of the church doors by brother marines.

Horse riders following the horse drawn caisson were family members of the fallen marine. Cpl. Bishop’s grandfather, Tom Ramey, of North Vernon, and three cousins, Amber Ramey, Colleen Ramey and Steele Case, all of North Vernon, rode in the procession. Amber told the Osgood Journal that when her cousin John was home on leave he would ride horses with them. On a riderless horse representing their loved one, the boots were turned backwards signifying his death.

It seemed the entire town and more followed the procession to the cemetery as they made their way down Main Street. The street was lined with others who held flags, waved banners and silently cried as this fallen hero was being taken for his last ride. It was a sea of red, white and blue as family members were surrounded by people sharing their grief and supporting them with love and prayers.

Services were complete at the cemetery with full military honors including the bagpipe music, taps, 21-gun salute, and the presentation of flags to the wife, mother, brother, and son of Cpl. Bishop.

Members of the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office stood at attention as the casket passed through the streets. Conservation Officer Steve Miller stood at attention to pay tribute to the young man who wanted to someday become a conservation officer.

The Versailles Police Department brought up the back of the procession and were on hand throughout the visitation and funeral for any details that needed attention. Patriot Guard Riders told the Osgood Journal they were pleased with the support from the Versailles Police Department. “Those guys are really good. You might not see them, but if you need them they appear from out of nowhere, they need to be complimented,” said Dave Teke of the Patriot Guard Riders.

After the ceremonies were completed, family and friends gathered at the Versailles Baptist Church where acts of kindness from an entire community resulted in a meal and a place for those left behind to gather and remember.

“It was a group effort,” Shirla Jones told the Osgood Journal concerning the massive amount of food they were able to offer those attending. She said many churches, businesses and individuals came together to help. In the words of Cpl. Bishop in a final letter to his mother, Sarah Thomas, he wrote, “I wouldn’t trade these 8 years for anything and its all because of the support. It’s good to know there are still people out there who support us no matter how they feel about this war. It feels good to be a part of that.”

Final words of SSGT Praxedes, “Cpl. Bishop, we love you and miss you. All of us are right here beside you. You died for us so we’ll live for you.” He whispered, “Semper Fi”.

Pictured at top is the crowd walking with the family of Cpl. John Bishop as he was being escorted to his final resting place by Steve Thompson, seated left on the horse-drawn carriage pulling the caisson. The procession went from the Versailles Baptist Church down Main Street to the Cliff Hill Cemetery where the fallen marine was buried beside his father, Gene Bishop, at his request. In the second photo is Cpl. Bishop's son, K-Sean, who received a flag at the end of the ceremony at the gravesite Thursday. Marines also presented flags in the bottom photo to Cpl. Bishop's wife, (left to right) Cpl. Crystal Bishop; his mother, Sarah Thomas, and brother, Tyson Bishop, as brother Mike Bishop, sister Amy Bishop and brother Eric Thomas, look on.