Memorial Day – Because Sometimes We Forget

Captain Eleanor Grace Alexander died on November 30 1967 in a plane crash in Binh Dinh, South Vietnam. I did not know anything about her until I made a point to find out who she was and how she died after seeing her name at the Vietnam War Memorial Wall. Eleanor Grace Alexander was one of eight active duty women who died during that war. She was 27 and unmarried.

Born the same year as my mother she would have been 70 on September 18 had she survived. Having read first hand accounts from people who knew her and several who served with her including¬†Rhona Marie Knox Prescott who wrote this moving letter which is part of the Veteran’s History Project in the Library of Congress, I am grateful there was a record so that some of my questions could be answered.

As an American child of the sixties, it was the Vietnam War that was the backdrop of my daily life with body counts and war updates delivered each night by men like Walter Cronkite of CBS news. Sadly we are still at war, still fighting, and still burying the dead. Although we do battle in different countries now, the result is the still the same for many and unless your life has been touched directly by loss it can be easy to forget why we recognize Memorial Day, why it’s more than a precursor to summer fun and pool side parties. I’m guilty of forgetting in the past, of treating the three-day weekend that leads into Memorial Day as a much needed respite from a too full life. What I hope to never forget is that I’ve had a chance to live the life I have thanks in part to men and women who died in wars long before I was born.

I plan to take a few minutes today to think about Eleanor Grace Alexander and my great uncle, Hugh Lee Stephens who died in WWII.

Is there someone today that you need to remember … I only ask because I know from experience that sometimes without meaning to, we forget.

7 thoughts on “Memorial Day – Because Sometimes We Forget

  1. I love that your curiosity made Eleanor someone real and not forgotten. Rhona’s letter a heartfelt testimony to that young girl who helped so many people and then lost her own life in that senseless war.

    Four years ago, my parents came and we went to one of the battlefields at Verdun to visit the grave of a younger brother of her great-grandfather. The young man’s name was Private Crit Barbee (my mom’s maiden name). I had called ahead to the American Battle Monuments Commission and those good folks had mapped out the grave for us and provided rubbing paper and pencils. They even had the carillon ring out in honor of our visit.

    I think of that teenager from out in West Texas coming to France to die in the mud and the trenches. IN all these years, we were the first family members ever able to come and pay our respects. It meant a lot to my mom, thinking she had done what her great-great-grandmother hadn’t been able to do. If you check here http://www.txgenweb9.org/goldstar/TexasGSMsCo.txt
    you’ll see that Crit’s mother was among the Texas “Gold Star” Mothers that were invited to come to France at the USG’s expense to come visit the graves of their fallen sons. But she had too many other kids and too much responsibility on that ranch out in the Texas panhandle to come.

    It meant so much to my mom, so it meant a lot to my dad and me too.

    Here’s too remembering all those fallen, all those who served, those serving now, and those back home supporting them, keeping their families going.

    Thank you for this thought-provoking post Elizabeth.

  2. You sure do have a way with words.
    I put this as a link on my Facebook Profile page, with a Friends of Friends setting, so I hope everbody is reminded and encouraged in the same way as I am.

  3. Elizabeth, thank you for remembering those who have served and fallen for our country. I’m going to link to your blog today because you’ve written such a moving tribute.

    Thank you.

  4. Great post. This year was the first time that I really connected emotionally with the meaning of the day. We had dinner last night with a friend who’d just spent 2 weeks getting certified for the next level in the officer corp. He might get called to Afghan1stan next year. During his two weeks away he’d called us because his wife cut her finger (to ask us to go make sure she was ok). I realized how hard it was for both of them. It’s his choice to remain in the Army and I respect him for it, but it’s SO hard for his family.

    So much armed conflict seems so senseless that it’s been easy for me to forget to remember the individual choices that are enmeshed in the greater tragedies and triumphs of war.

    Thanks for remembering.

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