I would make a terrible speechwriter because words about this day should flow easily. So many have written and spoken about this day’s significance, but when I sit down to write the words don’t flow easily. Perhaps it is because my father survived both WW2 and Korea, so I don’t feel the same sense of loss others might. My father refused to talk about his experiences in the Pacific and Korea, his only words were through his actions. He refused to have a gun in the house or go hunting with friends. I was not even allowed a cap pistol or BB gun, and he offered no explanation. The matter was closed, no discussion.
After he died, a friend of his wrote a book about his experiences in Korea. In the book, he described my father as a strapping young man who carried a side arm at all times. When I read this, I called him. I asked if he was sure about his description of my father. I could not imagine my father carrying a side arm, much less using it against the enemy. He assured me the description and heroism was accurate. I asked him why my father was so adamant about his dislike for guns. His words stay with me. He said, “I’m not surprised. If you saw and experienced what your father did, you would understand.” He would not elaborate.
When we celebrate Memorial day we rightfully think of the brave men or women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We also celebrate those young men and women who didn’t lose their lives, but lost something else during the war. Maybe they lost friends and comrades, maybe they lost innocence or youth, or maybe they lost something they couldn’t or wouldn’t describe.
One thing, I do remember is my father loved Memorial day. We would always go on a picnic, barbecue, play baseball, watch fireworks, and honor the fallen by doing the activities for which they gave their lives. I never saw Dad happier than he was at those Memorial Day picnics.
Dad left part of him in the Pacific and Korea. Whatever it was he took to his grave, but I am sure he would say that the sacrifice was well worth it. Memorial Day is proof that he would be right.