We have been having an interesting holiday – food shopping, dinner with friends, a little time in the garden and continuing to recover from my cold.
This weekend – Memorial Day weekend – evokes images of sunshine, BBQ’s, friends, and fun.
In our family, it means so much more. We have always grateful that my dad made it home to Chicago after four years in Europe during WWII only to return at the age of 23 and fall desperately in love with my 17-year old mom.
We are grateful that his brother – my Uncle Bill – was not killed in an accident in the Pacific that haunted him the rest of his life. He also carried shrapnel in his body as a constant reminder of that event.
We have also been reminded every year to pause and give thanks for those who didn’t come home. One of those was my mom’s brother. He was 19-years old, a brilliant navigator, pianist, actor, composer, mathematician, and engineer. He wasn’t supposed to be flying that day in December 16, 1943. He was filling in. He was based at an airstrip near Cambridge, England.
They flew east from the airstrip then directly south to bomb a submarine base in Hamburg, Germany. There was a problem with his plane. It lagged behind the rest of the group. It was a sitting duck.
It crashed. Several men survived. Two made it back to England; one became a POW, the rest died.
They never found his body.
My family was connected politically and, after the war, my grandmother was able to get a congressional investigation into his death. I have all the records. I even have the hit recorded in the Nazi documentation. I have the exact location of the crash site. I have the dreaded telegram dated just before Christmas. I have a letter from the newly released POW to my grandmother describing the crash.
My mom was 13-years old. It changed her life forever. Her mother never recovered from the loss of her son. Her sister was eight years older, in the WACS and gone from the area. She was alone. Her mother was so angry with her father for not showing his grief yet he undoubtedly felt it even deeper than she did.
In 1995, Michael, William and I traveled to the cemetery near this airstrip in Cambridge where so many American soldiers are buried. His name is inscribed on a wall of those who never returned. So many crosses. So many names.
I think about this same tragedy playing out in so many households today as we are still in a war. War.
Memorial Day. A day to remember.