UPDATE: May 2018
When I posted about Memorial Day two years ago, my father was a phone call away. Always the talker and teacher, he was the perfect source for recounting his wartime experiences that helped me craft this piece. Since he passed away in 2017, his memories make this holiday even more poignant and meaningful for our family.
Miss you tons, Mama and Dad, the best of the Greatest Generation ever!
The long holiday weekend ahead is summer’s unofficial kickoff, but Memorial Day is actually a somber occasion to honor those who served their country.
We proudly hang the colors. Gather with neighbors for a block party, where everyone brings their fave summer dish for a feast we look forward to all year. We’re thankful to live in a country where we can enjoy sharing friendship, food, and laughter.
And I remember.
My dad and uncles saw combat during WWII, from tanks in France to boots on the ground with Marines in Iwo Jima. Uncle Bruce never talked about his Army days holed in his tank or what he experienced in the European campaign. But he could never keep a job outside familiar work on grandma's farm. He was always gentle with us, but Mama's brother became anxious and left the room whenever we kids approached him with the slightest degree of normal kid mayhem. No one of this earth can confirm it, but with the hindsight of an adult and 21st-century research, I believe he suffered from PTSD.
Dad's brother, our Uncle Nick, a sweet red-haired former Marine, loved teasing and playing with us. But I remember sitting on Grandma's porch with him and listening to fireworks one July Fourth. "I can't stand that noise," he told me. To him, fireworks that delighted us sounded like the killing fields of battle.
My favorite WWII Quartermaster saw action in the South Pacific aboard the USS Elmore and later served in the Korean War. We are blessed to have Dad for his 92 years. He shared his wartime experiences and helped us understand.
Enlisting at age 18, Dad was on the Elmore's bridge of Elmore when it was attacked by Kamikaze fighters. Throughout this experience and others, he maintained he was fortunate to have returned from war when so many did not.
"We had just received orders to engage the Japanese fleet and were sailing there when we got word the bomb dropped on Hiroshima," he recalled. "It was a terrible thing, but for us, it meant the end of our fight."
Dad also met the beautiful Queen of the USO in Everett, WA, when he was stationed there before shipping off to war.
You guessed it!
That beauty married the handsome sailor after the war and became this baby boomer's parents.
I never know how to greet people on this Monday holiday. I feel silly wishing them a "happy" Memorial Day. "Happy" isn't the right word to describe this reverent occasion.
So, safe travels if you're on the road this long holiday weekend. Enjoy your cookouts, bike rides and extra time to sleep in Monday morning.
But let’s also take a moment to reflect and give thanks for those who sacrificed, so we can enjoy our freedom today.
From my front porch, the heart of our home,
to you and yours....
Wishing you a Memorial Day holiday
all good things.
How do you celebrate long summer weekends? For those who observe Memorial Day, how do you balance it with remembrance? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
War Memorial: Flight of Honor 2015 May
Our Quartermaster Now and Then: Norwalk Hour
USO Queen: Unknown
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