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.
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