I’m thinking about the men in my family who served our nation on this Memorial Day.
Two of my ancestors fought for the Union during the Civil War: one from Pennsylvania (my dad’s side of the family) and the other for West Virginia (my mom’s side of the family.) Both were wounded, one at Gettysburg, the other at the Battle of the Wilderness.
Memorial Day dates back to 1865, shortly after the end of the Civil War, when people in both North and South put decorations on the graves of those who fell in what is still the bloodiest war in American history. The holiday was called Decoration Day before the name was changed to Memorial Day.
My dad volunteered for service in World War II in August of 1942. He first tried to join the Navy as a Seabee, but was turned down for being underweight. He never was a large man, maybe 5’7″ tall. So he went across the hall to the Army Air Corps and enlisted. (He always said that in those days, the Army would take you if you could see light and hear thunder. He was quite the joker.) He worked on the ground crew of the bombers keeping the sights adjusted so the bombs would hit their target. He served first in North Africa and then in Italy.
My brother joined the Air Force right out of high school and served in the Pacific area as the Korean War was ending. I still have the doll he sent me from the Philippines.
In 2015 and again in 2016, I visited the Normandy landing beaches and the American cemetery in Colville. Learning about the D-Day landings and then seeing the rows of crosses really hits home the tremendous sacrifices made by our Allied soldiers that day. The experience is moving and humbling.
Wishing you all a joyful and meaningful Memorial Day.