I had another blog post written and then I realized my usual day happened to fall on Memorial Day and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to write about it.
I often wonder how the younger generations view this holiday. If they truly grasp the magnitude of this day. I’m not too worried about my generation because most of us had grandparents who were part of the greatest generation. At the very least, we still went to elementary school during a time where field trips were encouraged and many of us sang in nursing homes during our childhood affording us the opportunity to interact with older veterans. We heard either first hand or through friends the horrors of WWII and the mass casualties so many of that generation witnessed.
But for the younger generations? Our World War II vets are passing away at an alarming rate and the opportunities for them to learn about those experiences first hand are dying off just as quickly.
My absolute favorite part of my job is getting to know the resident’s stories. They are fascinating and inspiring and humbling. Here’s just a few…
*My first favorite resident…ever…from my first job was a paratrooper who, (thanks to his plane being hit around the same time as their jump), ended up behind enemy lines. He walked around the countryside until he had come in contact with enough fellow American soldiers to establish their own make-shift unit. I forget how the story ended, but his story ended at my facility; sitting outside on his walker, every day with his shirt off, telling me which bird was singing while playing his harmonica.
*The gentleman who flew a WWII bomber plane whose plane was shot down and he ended up as a POW . Eventually he wrote a book about his story using the journal entries from his daily diary. When we flew on bomber’s wings is fascinating. He managed to smuggle the silver spoon he used every day in camp out with him and he had it framed in his apartment.
*The lady who boarded a train in Lyon, France with her best friend and her best friend’s sister. They were en route to Paris for her best friend to meet her fiancé to get married when the train was diverted to a work camp just inside the German border. There they worked for over a year before deciding to make a break for it in the middle of the night-shoeless-eventually crossing back into France and freedom.
*The resident who (according to him) was so smart they made him be an instructor instead of going to fight. And he happened to be serving as an instructor in the Army, when Audie L. Murphy was discovered to have falsified his age and was brought to my resident. My resident asked Audie if he had his mother’s permission, to which Audie responded yes. And so, Audie stayed and became one of the most decorated WWII combat veterans.
My list could go on and on.
But today is Memorial Day. It’s not a day which is wildly loved by my residents. It’s a hard day. There’s no picnics or beach trips or happy summer kick off memories for them. Today is about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Sacrifices that none of us can truly understand the scope of. Sure, there have been members of the Armed Forces killed in action since WWII and I am in no way being dismissive of their sacrifice, but our country collectively has not quite witnessed the same magnitude level of losses that were occurring in the 1940s.
Ever heard of the Bedford boys? Bedford suffered the nation’s severest D-Day losses when 19 (and four more later in the campaign) of their boys, out of a population of only 3,200, were killed on D-Day.
I’m reminded of one of my residents who had THE most spunky personality of anyone I’ve ever known…who lost her fiancé in WWII and to her dying day, her eyes would get this far away look of loved lost when she spoke of him.
Or the resident whose brother was killed in action and who consequently hated any part of discussing WWII.
I think it’s their own, incredibly personal stories, that make this day so special to me. Their grief is still palpable. It’s been carried, real and raw, for years. Just like it’s carried by the thousands of loved ones of those who have paid the highest price in every war. It’s also probably one of the reasons I get so fed up with people thanking veterans on Memorial Day.
If you come across a veteran today, tell them you’re praying for them. Tell them you’re thinking of the comrades they’ve lost. Support them and love them, but remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Today is their day.
Tomorrow is an important day in the Z household. I need to take a moment to wish my husband a very happy 36th Birthday. It seems like just yesterday I was baking you a cake for your 24th. I never thought it was possible to love someone as much as I love you. I’m so grateful to have you walking through this crazy life with me. Cheers to you my love.
Also-please consider this public shout out your birthday present 😉