26 May 2008

Memorial Day

While pursuing my history degree, one of my professors asked me if I would consider interviewing a primary source instead of writing a traditional paper. He told me to interview the matriarch of my family as they are most often the keepers of family history. I jumped at the opportunity. My professor enjoyed the paper so much that he said he wanted me to do it again. I asked if I could interview my father, who had served in World War II. The professor agreed and I am grateful. It was the one time that my father and I connected. It changed our relationship completely.

My father suffered from what would be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and as a result he seldom slept. When his body betrayed him and allowed sleep to overtake him, you didn't want to be the one who woke him up. He never spoke of his experiences in the war. Two things happened that allowed him to finally talk about his service time. One was a bit of jealousy that I had interviewed my aunt and the other was Steven Spielberg's movie, Schindler's List.

My father had been among the first soldiers to find Dachau. He was with a group of men who found the back side of the camp. He took pictures. He told me that he and the men he was with took the pictures, "Not because of some sick curiosity but because we were afraid no one would believe us." I won't go into the horrible details of what he saw. Not that I am afraid to retell the stories. I will tell them to anyone who wants to listen. Those stories are not the reason for my post.

Today is about remembering those who have fought and died in conflict. Of the group of men my father went to Europe with to fight the war, only 8 of their original numbers survived. Dad took a Nazi festoon off the building where the Nuremberg trials were held. The 8 surviving men signed it. Our family still has the flag. When I look at it, I am grateful for my father's life being spared. I also think of the men who weren't there to sign their names.

"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime....let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan." --General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868 "..

Let's not forget those who are serving us now. Do we make pledges to aid and assist those whom the fallen soldiers leave? Do we see them as a sacred charge? Or does having the war on a different continent change things? Have we so changed that the idea of caring for the widow and orphan never crosses our minds?

James 1:27
27 This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of {our} God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, {and} to keep oneself unstained by the world.

1 comment:

UpOnTheHill said...

Just finished a really great book that I think you'd like. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. Similar themes as this post.