On Memorial Day, Remember as Well the Families of the Dead
There is a faded letter in a small museum at a small American Legion Post in a tiny town in Appalachia. For 20 years it was in my possession.She sat quietly in a wheelchair as a flag was folded and presented to her. A few rows behind I cried.
Then I put it into a large envelope with a book, some photographs and a telegram and mailed the collection to an aunt.
The faded letter is from Memorial Day, 1945. General H.H. “Hap” Arnold writing a set of my great-grandparents. He expressed his gratitude for their personal sacrifice. They gave a son to the war effort. An earlier faded telegram from 1943 explains he was killed in action.
This was all long before I was born. Dad and all of my uncles had served in either the Army or Navy. They all came home and carried on lives as civilians. It wasn’t until the middle of last summer the remains of “Barney” Kuhn were actually identified. After 74 years he came home and we buried him in a rural cemetery. There was no media fanfare. There were four generations of family in attendance.
An aunt was the only person under the tent with any memories of the man lost during the greatest war in human history. She sat quietly in a wheelchair as a flag was folded and presented to her. A few rows behind I cried. I’m not sure why. I guess because I was overcome by a great sense of loss.
Friday I received an email from a Gold Star Mother. Her anguish is much more recent and it doesn’t go away. It’s there every family holiday. Every birthday, every religious holiday, the anniversary of her son’s death and Memorial Day. It’s there when she hears a song about the fallen. When she hears taps and when she’s asked about the day he came home one last time.
This Memorial Day say not only a prayer for the dead but also please remember the families who made great sacrifices and after the burial are often forgotten. They live with a pain not one of us wants to ever share. God, please bless them for their tremendous personal sacrifice.