For much of my life remembering the war dead on Memorial Day has been about those lost during WWII or the Vietnam War. It was easier when I was younger to balance a plate of barbecue while watching a parade of war veteran’s marching to honor fallen comrades. It was more distant then, less personal.
There were stories of course like those I heard about my great-uncle Hugh Lee, who died in France during WWII, but nothing close enough to affect me personally. Having died years before I was born, it was my father and my great-grandmother who talked about him the most and made him more to me than just a name on a gravestone in the family plot.
Gratefully, he was the last in our immediate family to die in service and while my father and I both spent time in the Army, neither of us were faced with military conflict.
At fifty, I struggle to read the news reports of war related deaths especially when I see that some of the people dying are my daughter’s age or younger. I can’t imagine their parent’s grief. I don’t want to know how that feels.
What I do know is how important the stories we share are no matter if they happen at the cemetery or over a plate of barbecue. I won’t be doing either today, no visits to war memorials and no family gatherings with food or conversation, but I will remember and not just my family.
I’ll spend some time today with the stories I usually can’t bear to read because this is a day for remembering and for acknowledging the loss that some people can never forget.
Here’s one of my stories from last year. If you have a link to one you’d like to share, feel free to leave it in a comment below.
We haven’t lost anyone in a war, but this weekend is hard for us. On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, in 1972, my grandfather died. Mother always remembers it and it makes her sad. Memorial Day weekend in 1996 was when we learned my dad had cancer. He died six weeks later. So it’s a sad time for us, and I try to keep the weekend very low-key for that reason. Aside from watching my son play in a tennis match this afternoon, I’m not going to do anything special today.
I do, however, pray for all those in our military, and their families. Since my brother spent 2008 in Iraq I am keenly aware of their sacrifice.
I think the photo captures both the respect and the sadness of this post very well.
Thank you for the reminder. I grew up with Memorial Day being just about the barbque, and am always grateful to be reminded of the real purpose.
It’s a good time to remember my Father-in-law who died two years ago. He didn’t die in the war, but he was a young man in Korea during the communist invasion and was in a student army. He once told me of a night in the snow when he just had to keep shooting all night long. The communists put very young boys (13-14) on the front line, knowing how much it would torture the Koreans to have to shoot children, but it was shoot or be shot and he just had to keep shooting. That generation of Korean men were harsh fathers and not very connected to their children, but there were horrifying reasons why that was often the case.