It is my belief, that Memorial Day is the most powerful sectarian holiday our country celebrates. In a profound way it yearly unveils the memory of a grateful nation. We remember heroism, and much much more. Possibly the most telling definition of a hero can be claimed by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Heroes he wrote, are no braver than you or I, but they are braver five minutes longer! Those honored this coming Monday have been braver for as long as this country has existed. Our women and men in uniform need not speak of patriotism – they embody patriotism.
Moreover, as we honor these heroes, we must also remember the families that reared the pride of our nation. Every such family has stories; stories of love, courage and sacrifice. One such story belongs to my family.
During World War II my maternal grandmother came to have five sons in combat at the same time. Could there have been a moment when her thoughts did not gravitate to their welfare? My father was also in the European theatre. So my mother then pregnant with twins- my brother and myself, lived with my grandmother. Recently, my mother told me that at that time there was a ritual of sorts that occurred each weekday afternoon. The folks in the neighborhood would stand vigil in front of their homes. Why? It was at that time that telegrams were delivered notifying families if a loved one was killed, wounded or missing in action. Can you imagine? Yet my mother told me that few complained. Rather they faced this daily rite with a stoic dignity, knowing that the greatest sacrifice fell on those in uniform.
One day my mother was handed two telegrams. One stating that one of her brothers had been wounded in combat for the third time. The second dreaded telegram declared that her younger brother then 18 years of age, was killed at the Battle of the Bulge.
Was my family’s story unique? Probably not. But as we remember our heroic troops, and express our reverence for them, a blessing on a thankful nation, let us also remember that they are the sons and daughters, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers of proud families, imbued with the courage of those they hold dear.