Monday, May 30, 2011

What we talk about on Memorial Day

Both the Things Grandfathers and one Great Grandfather have served in the military during war time. My father served during Vietnam stateside and my Grandfather and Father in Law both served overseas in World War Two. 
The last many months my husband and I have been scanning in a journal my Father in Law wrote while serving in World War two. He was on the beaches of Normandy and walked across Europe a few days behind the front line US troops. It has been amazing to see the War from the perspective of a 20 year old man whose life stopped for this. He was in the band and playing JV baseball for Notre Dame when he went in, he continued that life when he got out. The letters we have seen and journal we scanned in show that life didn't stop while these men were away, people got married and friends continued to play in the band. The letters to another friend who was also serving showed more concern their would be no girls when they got home, and no place for themselves at school. They seemed less concerned with their own lives and the gruesome details of what they endured day in and day out, than life when they got out.  There is a journal entry talking about coming across a downed German plane and what these young men had to do to clean it up, but it is never mention in any letter and explained in a very distant way.  The journal ends with my father in law stating 'and at the end of it all I find out "XX" is a bum', we are guessing the girl he liked married while he was gone.  World War Two from history class to family members who lost their lives in it has always seemed mythic, and this journal reminded me these are just young men, like the young men and women serving now.
Reading the journal has allowed me the chance to get to know the man a little better. I met my father in law in the later end of his life, and though he was a talker I never felt like I knew him very well.  I learned more about him through his children and wife.  We would chat in the mornings on occasion when we went to visit over coffee, but I never felt like we had a ton in common.  My father in law was always warm to myself and my family, not always saying the right thing, but always inquired after them and hoping well for them. When Thing One was born so ill and he went in to see her in the NICU, he just keep telling us he wanted to just take her out of there and make her OK.  He adored his granddaughters, everyone.  When he passed away I was pregnant with Thing Two, the only boy in the troop, and I wonder often what he would have thought of him.
Thing Two looks like his dad, which means he looks like his grandfather. Actually Thing Two looks like both grandfathers as children, and hopefully he will become the great man both of these men are and were.
Until Thing One and Two can read the journal for themselves or put a wreath on their Great Great Uncles grave at Pearl Harbor we will spend a little piece of Memorial Day talking about the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made and why, and spend some time with great friends to remember no matter what life goes on and needs to be lived. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erica- comments are working again!! Love this post and the message you're sharing with your kids.