Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom. Some will visit cemeteries to visit loved ones, and some will attend Memorial Day services or ceremonies. Hopefully all will pause to give thanks for those who fought for our freedom but didn’t make it back home.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I would go spend time with our grandpa and step-grandma on their farm. Grandma had the upstairs bedrooms named: Anita’s room, the west room, and Johnny’s room. I remember being afraid to touch any of Johnny’s things, because they were so special to grandma. There was a model car on one dresser that I remember thinking was so cool, which made me think that Johnny himself must have been cool.
On the main level of the house, grandma had a sun room of sorts. It had a seating area, steps that led out to the sidewalk in front of the house, and a built in display area in a corner near the steps. That display area was very special to grandma.
Johnny entered the military in June, 1967, just a few months before I was born. He was killed in action in Vietnam in November, 1968.
In grandma’s display area, she had his purple heart, his medals, a few photos, and the flag that draped his coffin. Every so often, she would talk about Johnny, and show us on the map where he was killed. His death impacted her deeply, but I was too young to realize how deeply until recently.
John was not the first of grandma’s family to be killed in action. Her only brother was killed in WW II in France. The military honors at John’s committal service were performed by the Bertus Jurgens Post Number 283, which was named after John’s uncle, grandma’s brother. Grandma went through the heartache of losing two very special men during war time. She also experienced the loss of her mother, and her first husband. Those losses help to explain why grandma seemed so deeply affected by Johnny’s death. She also understood the need for talking about family members who passed on before us, and the importance of introducing us to the family members we never had the chance to know. I am thankful that she shared her stories, and that we felt like we knew our step-uncle a little.
On this Memorial Day, I hope that you will take the time to share memories of your loved ones, pray for those who have lost family members who were fighting for our freedom, and give thanks that we live in the Land of the Free because of the Brave.