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Monday, May 25, 2009

To Those Who Have Served

It was suggested to me earlier that perhaps I was not treating Memorial Day weekend with the respect it deserves. After somewhat self-righteously proclaiming my “street creds” surrounding the armed services, I gave it some thought and realized that not everything is suited for BBQs and beer.

At least not without the proper preamble.

While I’ve had quite a few family members serve in the forces, there’s only been one, that I know of, that has died in the service of his country.

When I was small, I spent quite a bit of time with my mother’s parents. My grandma was especially dear to me, a kind and patient woman with a good sense of humor and a strong work ethic.

Grandma had 14 children (my mother being the last one born at home) and lived most of her life on a medium-sized farm with a medium-sized farmhouse in central Minnesota. Nine boys and five girls, here were three bedrooms (one for the parents, one for the boys, and one for the girls). The boys slept three to a bed, the girls slept three to a bed, and indoor plumbing was not introduced to the farm until my mother was in the ninth grade.

Grandma’s second oldest, Kenny, was 18 when he enlisted in 1944, following the oldest boy, Merle. The rural farming community from which they sprang were terribly proud of their boys; and while everyone was concerned, and rightfully fearful of what would come next, they were sent off with kisses and handshakes and the fervent wish that they see them again.

But wishing for it won’t make it so.

Kenny died in a rollover Jeep accident in Tennessee shortly before he was to leave for Europe.

He was sent home as they were afraid he would be: in a box.

To Grandma’s further sorrow, the Lutheran church of which she’d been a part for the previous 15 years or so refused to enter Kenny’s name on the granite-engraved list of “our fallen” because he hadn’t actually been at war when he died but had instead been on a twisted and unpaved road in Tennessee.

Basic Training and marching orders be damned: he’d only been en route to war

Until Grandma died, this was a sore point with her: that he had been enlisted, that he was on his way to fight when he had died, so young and a little under a thousand miles from home.

Today? Kenny’s gone. Grandma’s gone. But I remember them both and recognize the sacrifices that both of them made: Kenny was prepared to give his life in answering the call of the second World War. Grandma gave her second oldest son.

I never met Kenny, but I knew my Grandma; and on this day, on Memorial Day, I recall them both with love.

The world was a better place for both of them having been here.


darsden said...

Kudos to you Pearl. Amen, they do so much for us. Freedom is Not Free. I think of them all and appreciate what they have done for me and my country! I live by several military bases...the sound of freedom is all around me and I am humbled and so thankful for all of them! They are so Brave.

Scrappy Doo said...

Added Kudos to you Pearl!

For those who say you are not giving credit where credit is due-

I think you did just fine
and that is my opinion! and I am a Vet.


powdergirl said...

I hail from a Mennonite community, they're pacifists. Their contribution to the war efforts of their times was in growing and supplying food to the troops. This was part of the deal when Canada and US invited them and provided free passage to thousands of Russian Mennonites. There was so much open land, that people like these were needed to farm it.
I still have a copy of the contract, but I'm no pacifist. Had I known myself better, sooner, I would likely have signed up.
There were those sons and fathers from our communities that did serve, against the wishes of the church.
Some died,naturally, fighting for their adopted country.
The Town and Church refused until 10 years ago to allow a town memorial.
Very,very sad.
The day the monument was complete, I watched the old men who had fought for it break down in tears of remembrance, and in gratitude for the long awaited recognition.
It was one of the most moving moments of my life. It opened my eyes.

Kristine said...

Very nice. I think there's plenty of room in a day for both joy and somber gratitude.

Jodie Kash said...

Thanks for the reminder. Shout out over at Out of Me Head.

Chris @ Maugeritaville said...

Very touching post, Pearl. Thanks for sharing this.


Douglas said...

Thank you, Kenny, you also served and deserved better from your church.

@eloh said...

Thanks for the "tone" you gave today. And Thanks

KMcJoseph said...

Happy Memorial Day.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

It's true that Memorial Day is generally an opening ceremonies for summer... It's never a bad thing to have things put into perspective.

Michelle said...

God Bless Kenny and your family!


Happy Memorial Day!!!

The Retired One said...

What a sweet post. I would've been pissed like your grandma over him not being honored. He WAS willing to give up his life for us. Not many people can say that.

fingers said...

That's a very sad story, Pearl.
I wonder what greater sacrifice the church was looking for from Kenny in order that he qualify as fallen ??
They weren't being asked to recommend him for a Purple Heart or Congressional Medal, just make a permanent record of his passing...

Eskimo Bob said...

Here's to our fallen comrades. (You with your beverage of choice, and me - with mine).

Pearl said...

Thank you, everyone, for the lovely comments. I've fallen behind lately -- between the writing every day, the beer, the cooking, the cleaning, the beer, and the annual migration of my winter clothes to one part of the room and my summer clothes to another, I'm just plain behind.