Most of the time, Memorial Day makes me think of the countless men and women who have given their lives in defense of freedom.
Today, I found myself thinking of two men I never knew.
My Uncle Charlie was my Dad’s next youngest brother. He served as a paratrooper in WWII, in “The Big Red One”–something I didn’t know until just a few years ago. Dad told other Uncle Charlie stories. He had really bad allergies. He sent more than his paycheck home to Grandmom & Grandpop, because he consistently won at poker. (My brother John and sister Kath inherited his gift for card playing.) In a cruel twist of fate, Uncle Charlie died in Europe, run over by a Jeep, after peace had been declared. Grandmom thought all four of her older boys, all of them in service, would return home to her, until the telegram came that brought her to her knees, sobbing in grief.
My mom had never met her Australian first cousin, William Stanley Brennan, until he stopped to visit his American kin in Pennsylvania on his way to England via Canada. From the way she talked about him, I think she had a case of instant hero worship. Stan had volunteered for the Royal Air Force. My sister MaryBeth, in doing some family research, discovered he was killed in action less than four months later.
These are only two of the stories that put faces and names to the men and women we remember today. When we remember all those who have fallen, let us remember that every one of them had a story: a face, a name, a family, hopes and fears and dreams….
Let us not only honor all of them. Let us honor every single one of them.