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Lest We Forget

The Santa Rosa (Franklin Memorial Lawn), where my parents are buried, held a Memorial Day Service. I had never been to one and thought it was high time I went. There were plenty of chairs but many of us decided to stand at the back, under the shade of a beautiful, spreading oak tree for an hour and a half. The hour's program was a little longer because the sound system was refusing to cooperate. It was wonderful to see those who were in uniforms that still fit, some after 70 years post-service. The sound system wasn't working while trying to key up the Star Spangled Banner, when, suddenly, from out of the crowd came a voice, acapella, singing our national anthem. Soon, we were all joining in, singing the words, all except the very young who seemed amazed that so many of us knew all the words. I believe it was the best rendition I have heard in many, many, years.

Memorial Day Service showing 3 veterans at attention and the main flag at half mast.

Before the ceremony started a lovely woman came up to chat briefly with me. She asked if I "had someone." Somehow, I understood what she was asking; did I have someone I lost who had served? I had to think about the question and then I answered, "Yes." Let me explain by giving you a family timeline.

*My nephew was in the 82nd Airborne, serving his time in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is very much alive and well and raising his beautiful family today.

*My cousin was in the Navy, onboard CV-41 USS Midway (1979-81). He also served during the Gulf War. During his two years on the Midway, seven deaths occurred from guys just doing their jobs. Today, he is very much alive and now enjoying retirement in Florida.

*Next, going back in time, is my brother-in-law who served in the Coast Guard. I did not know him before his time in the service, but he once told me that his service time made him grow up and become more serious about life. He turned out to be a really good guy. He lived life to the full and has since passed on.

*Then, there was my husband, Del, born and raised in Sebastopol, who served in the Air Force as an Airman 1st Class. His time was spent between Korea and Vietnam in the early to mid-sixties. As with most Vietnam Vets he rarely talked about that time, but his occasional nightmares would give me hints. Throughout our twenty years together, he would have shrapnel work its way up and out through his skin. He would stare at a tiny fragment, then throw it away, and move on with his life. I cherish the time I had with him. He was keenly aware of how precious life was. He was always 1st Class in my heart.

*My father was drafted and sent over with the occupying troops (WWII) to Normandy. He did not see action but they were always on high alert. My dad was not the best soldier. His letters home would show a change in rank almost as often as you fill your gas tank. But his heart was big. It was winter and the German POWs, many of whom were under 18, had no boots, no jackets and/or no blankets. Being in charge of supply, those items kept mysteriously disappearing from the stockrooms. He could have been court-martialed but, I think he just kept rank-hopping because of his lousy "record keeping." He served his time, came home, went on the GI Bill, and met my mother. They were married on June 25, 1950 - the day we went into Korea. He was still in the Silent Reserves and could have easily been called back. Probably, at age 29, they passed on him. Though, I wonder if they looked at his up-and-down service record.

*My dad's brother, Uncle Art, joined the Navy and fought in the Pacific. He was on the USS Morrison. Three months before the end of the war with Japan, Art's ship was hit, was going down, and they were called to abandon ship. Art had gone down below several times to help bring up the wounded. The last time one of his shipmates saw him he seemed to have a broken wing. His arm hanging uselessly by his side, he was heading back down, just one more time, for just one more sailor... I never met Uncle Art but, still, his time on this Earth touches my heart. I have not forgotten.

*I can go back as far as my great-grandfather. He came to America at the age of 16. He joined the Union Army, at the age of 18, and served in the Civil War. At the war's end, he was given $50 and a train ticket. He came to California and here I am today.

*I also need to mention my best friend, Arleen. She is a Vietnam Veteran having herself served in the Air Force.

I have not mentioned the Marines. But, hey, you guys could have ended up with my dad. You are welcome! So, yes, I "have someone" and every one of them has positively touched my life. I don't know that wars ever make people better. But I believe that the people who served, and the people serving today, do make our lives better. When the guy in front of you at Starbucks is wearing his Veteran's cap, buy his coffee. When he turns around, thank him for his service. If you believe in the Butterfly Effect, his, or her service could, very possibly, have helped you be the person you are today.

Memorial Day Service with full crowd attending.
Lest We Forget in 2024


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