Every Memorial Day weekend, I pull out this story that my Grandma wrote to me in a letter while I was in college. I was taking a story telling class and had written my grandparents asking them to send me family stories. This one is a gem, and serves as a reminder that Memorial Day is more than barbecues, a day off work and the start of summer. May you remember all those, and their families, who have given their lives so that we may live free, and pray for those who serve us today across the globe.
The date was December 7, 1941. My sister and I were home alone when the news came over the radio (before the days of t.v.) that Pearl Harbor had been attacked by Japan. That meant we were at war.
I was a freshman in high school at the time, and my sister Betty was four years older. I had no idea at the time what impact that news broadcast would have on our family, consisting of Mom, Dad, three boys, and us two girls, living a somewhat quiet life on an Ohio farm.
Dick, my middle brother, joined the army the following summer. We all went to visit him during basic training at Camp Perry. The following summer of 1943, my youngest brother, Leonard joined the Navy after graduating from high school.
By now, most young men were in service unless he was declared 4-F, meaning he couldn’t pass the physical. Others got a deferment for a critical war job. My oldest brother Bob fell in this category. When his deferments ran out, he was drafted and left for service on Christmas Eve 1943. We all went to the station to wave him goodbye. The weather was nasty, snowy and slippery. Only a call from Uncle Sam would bring a person out on that Christmas Eve.
Bob went through boot camp then a shake down cruise with the ship he was assigned to, the Destroyer Meredith. He came home on leave before leaving for whatever assignment lay ahead. By now, it was spring of 1944, and I was getting ready to graduate from high school. Bob bought me a black Parker fountain pen for my graduation gift. As he walked toward the front door, he said his last goodbye, cried, and said he wouldn’t be coming back. At that moment it didn’t leave much impact on me because I knew he wasn’t as eager to go off to service as my other brothers.
Three weeks later, in the middle of the night, there was a knock at the door. My Dad asked who was there. The reply was, “It’s Western Union with a telegram from the War Department.” Mom and Dad went downstairs immediately. I remember lying in bed, not wanting to know which one of my brothers the telegram brought news of. When I did go downstairs, I learned the news was about Bob. His first trip out took him directly to the Normandy invasion in the English Channel on June 6, 1944. His destroyer was hit on the morning of June 8, and he was killed in action.
My thoughts went back to the last time I had seen him, only a few weeks earlier and the statement he made as he said goodbye.
I still have and cherish my fountain pen.