Today is Memorial Day, a day when we honor fallen soldiers. My immediate family has been fortunate in that we don’t have a lot of soldiers who have died in service to their country. My father was vehemently against the Vietnam war, and refused to go to war, though he did alternate service. My step-mom’s first husband died in Vietnam, however, so certainly the family is not unscathed. How is one supposed to feel in such a case? If he had lived, she would not have married my father. On the other hand, I cannot be glad that he died. My father-in-law served in Vietnam, though thankfully he came home safely so that he could fall in love with my Mother-in-Law.
For WWII, my grandfather (my mom’s step dad) was in his 40s, and only had half of his stomach following surgery, so was not wanted by the military. My grandfather (my mom’s father) had flat feet perhaps and bad hearing, so he did not serve in the military. He did work at the ship yards in Oakland and Alameda, working on ships that were going to war. His brother, my mom’s uncle Leland, did serve, and came home safely.
My great-grandfather served in World War I, and thankfully came home safely, because otherwise none of my more immediate family would be here. He didn’t marry until he came home from the war. He served in Russia, and there is a photo on my Grandma’s wall of him, with a letter signed by President Ford.
Before that we go to the Civil War, and my 3rd great grandfather, John Nevins Mace. He was born and raised in New Hampshire, near the Massachusetts border. He married Sarah Angelina Parkhurst (known as Angie), and within a few months he went to battle. He died from typhoid fever before even learning that Angie was pregnant, in Washington D.C. He served in the same regiment as Angie’s brother, Charles Nevins Parkhurst, who also died from Typhoid before seeing battle. I know that his death left a horrible emptiness in the family he left behind. Angie worked trying to support their daughter, Etta Louise (my Grandmother’s Grandma), and died when Etta was only 7. Etta was raised by aunt and uncles and her grandmother and great-grandmother, a woman born during the Revolutionary War. She was raised in a family of love, but certainly would have loved to be raised by her living parents. My Grandma always says that because of that, every generation was raised more conservatively than it should have been, raised perhaps a generation behind their cohort. Don’t worry, my mom’s generation caught them all up, and whatever they missed, my generation filled in.
Thank you to all of our fallen soldiers, and their families who miss them horribly. The holes that are left in the lives of their families are horrible and tragic, and should not be ignored or forgotten in the rush to barbeque and celebrate summer.