For Memorial Day, I’d like to share a story about my Great Uncle Bill, who served in the Pacific Fleet in WWII. Please forgive me if I’m short on details, as it’s been years since I’ve heard all the particulars and Bill is no longer with us to verify them. If my memory serves correctly, Bill served one of the supply vessels in the Fleet. While he had seen some action, including a kamikaze attack, the best of his stories involves a little trade mishap.
The Captain of his ship loved sauerkraut. One day the Captain was at the bow, talking to another Captain and arrange a food trade: a little less than half their food stores for a big bunch of sauerkraut. I guess the other ship had a surplus, I dunno, strange to me are the ways of military logistics and supplies. However, unbeknownst to the Captain, the First Mate is over at the stern make trade arrangements as well: a little less than half their food stores for sauerkraut.
I trust you can see where this is going…
Yes, for nearly a month, Bill and everyone else on his ship were served sauerkraut three times a day. Bill claimed that by the end of that month he could “shit through a keyhole from thirty paces.” He hadn’t touched sauerkraut since.
It’s easy for those of us not in the military to recall stories like these, because we don’t experience how terrible war is. Films like “Saving Private Ryan” come close to depicting it, but we’re still safe in our chairs.
Five years ago, my cousin Anita was serving at Fort Hood. She didn’t panic when the gunfire began. Instead, she acted, getting the people around her to safety. I don’t have much more to say — other then that she’s a hero, and that’s something I need to remember.
In this Age of Information, it is all too easy for a civilian (ie who hasn’t served) to mentally cordon off the men and women in our military — to mark them as faceless Stormtroopers of an Imperialistic regime. We need to remember that they aren’t disposable cogs, that they’re people we love: friends, family, or spouses.
And that is what Memorial Day means to me — not just to remember their service, but to remember that they are loved and in some cases missed.