Today, on this Memorial Day, I am thinking about all of those who have passed on. My sister, my grandparents, relatives, some dear friends.
I'm also thinking about all of the US soldiers who died in the line of duty. Whatever your opinion is about our military or government, those soldiers gave their lives because they thought they were protecting our freedoms or they were fighting for others to have the freedoms that we Americans often take for granted. Today, I am also grateful to their families who lost their loved ones.
On days like this, I always think of my Grandma and a story she told me about her brother, Bob. He was drafted into World War II, barely 18 years old. His country called and he couldn't refuse. He went off to basic training and left his family for the first time in his life.
Time passed and Bob wrote to my Grandma and her family that he would be on a train passing through their town on his way to the war. So my Grandma, her parents and her siblings went to meet the train. Half of the family was on one side of the train and half were on the other so that could guarantee that at least half of them would see him. My Grandma was on the wrong side of the train that day.
For a while, my Grandma said that they would receive letters regularly from her brother. He wrote eloquently and always soothed their worries about his safety. But soon, the letters stopped. See, her brother had been changing the middle initial in his name with each letter's signature in an effort to let his family know where he was so that they could keep track of him through the news. How thoughtful and crafty. But someone obviously discovered his trick and after that, no letters were delivered.
My Grandma said the family was so excited to get a visit from a local boy who had come back from the war on leave. He told them stories of seeing Bob in battle. Bob had wanted to be a doctor and was chosen to be a medic in the Army. The young soldier told my Grandma's family that Bob had grown even taller. He was now quite possibly 6'2" or 6'3". He was still very blonde. And still very gentle. In fact, he had found a lost kitten and was carrying it around with him in his pocket amidst the battleground.
The day that half of my Grandma's family saw her brother Bob on the train leaving for the war was the last time they would see him alive. He died in battle on the island of Cebu in the Phillipines. He never went to college. Never married. Never had children of his own. Never...
When I think back to my Grandma's telling of this story, my heart aches. It aches for my Grandma, for her parents, for everyone who loved Bob, for those of us in the family who never got to know him. And my heart aches for every other solider's family who gave their life because their country asked for their service and they did not refuse.
For me, Memorial Day is not a day to discuss politics or opinions about wars, occupations, matters of diplomacy, or foreign policy. Memorial Day is about people. People who should be honored for their sacrifice. People who have passed on and need to be remembered for the mark they made on the world; the mark they made on our hearts.