Remembering Memorial Day Through My Grandfather’s War Letters

May 25, 2018

Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, is here. Time off of work, trips to lake cabins, barbecues, and cold beverages are top of mind. The holiday feels like a vacation in and of itself. It’s easy to forget that for many it means much, much more. 

I’m reminded of my grandfather, who died as the last survivor of his WWII unit. I can only imagine what that experience must have been like. Thanks to a framed series of letters he wrote home as a wide-eyed soldier, I’m able to imagine it in vivid color. His framed writing is one of my most treasured possessions; an example of the man and storyteller I greatly admired. A few excerpts:

Despite these incredible accounts, upon returning home and growing into the old man that I knew and loved, he didn’t like to talk about the war. I can only imagine why. To have been a country kid sent halfway around the world, to New Guinea, the Philippines and Japan, to have forged friendships through such profound experiences, to mourn the loss of so many people, and then to be reminded of it all must have been overwhelming. 

But I know he appreciated whenever others recognized the significance of those services and sacrifices. It’s something to think about, if only for a moment while enjoying a three-day weekend.