Memorial Day is here, and for most of us it will involve cookouts, relaxing and maybe asking the kids not to throw rocks at passing cars. We should all take a moment to reflect today, however, because for many of our friends and family this day is something far more somber.
Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. One was a Naval electrician aboard an aircraft carrier, the other an Army grunt following his unit into Dachau, and not a day goes by that I don't think about both. We just lost my Navy grandfather in December at 93 years old, but I spent my entire lifetime hearing the stories of life aboard a carrier, the loneliness that comes with marrying the woman you love and leaving her for two years and the enormousness of his tiny role in one of the most terrible global conflicts in human history. He was perhaps the best man I've ever known.
My Army grandfather never spoke about his experience to me, and I only know snippets from my family--the two Purple Hearts earned before his 19th birthday, the horrors of being one of the first Americans to arrive at a concentration camp, the terror and confusion and death that followed him across Europe--but it is enough. He was a good man, a haunted man, and I wasn't old enough to truly know what that service meant until it was too late to thank him. He died when I was 15, and I distinctly remember finding his Bronze Star and Purple Hearts and gasmasks in his tiny apartment as we sorted through what he left behind.
None of this is unfamiliar to any of you, because you all know veterans, if you haven't served. Regardless of the circumstances, military service is an awesome sacrifice to make, and one that deserves the recognition it often doesn't receive. I'm lucky enough to know veterans who didn't lose their lived in war, but today, we need to remember those who did not return, as well as honor those who did.
Happy Memorial Day to all of you, but particularly the veterans in our midst. Thank you.