One son was Billy… he was the youngest of eight children. His older brother was Glenn. Theirs was a simple life, in rural Pennsylvania. And then came the war… World War II.
Both wanted to enlist in the army… both wanted to protect our country from an enemy they weren’t even old enough to understand. Billy was more than a little frightened at what was to come, although he tried to be brave. But as his ship landed at Normandy Beach, and he ran ashore with his fellow soldiers, those fears were realized… tripping over bodies of comrades who had already died in an onslaught on the beach, they were told “Don’t look, and don’t think about it.” Although Billy was assigned to kitchen duty, he still felt every effect of the horrors of this war… he sometimes had to head to the battlefield if extra hands were needed… he recalls reaching out to a fellow soldier who had fallen in front of him, and realizing he was dead… he recalls starting one day by cooking for 137 and by evening less than 40 returned… the rest having given their life for their country.
Back in the United States was Alice – excited to be just starting out on a successful clerical career… but the war called her too. Although she didn’t go overseas, she served in the Navy, helping maintain all the records that were necessary for the hundreds and thousands of troops who were fighting this awful war. And then she was faced with an extra worry… her brother Leslie had also joined in the war effort and he was taken prisoner when his plane was shot down.
Two different families, two different mothers, four different children… a story has repeated itself over the years… from World War II, to the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Gulf War and to current conflicts today… young men, young women sacrificing their own freedom, and for some their own lives… to protect our freedoms as Americans. I’m sure we all are grateful, but I wonder… do we share our gratitude? Do we say “thank you”? Thank you for protecting our freedom. Thank you for caring so much about our country and what it stands for. Thank you for giving of yourself. Thank you for serving… thank you.
So to Billy and Alice – my parents – I say thank you – I’m sad that I didn’t say it while you were still alive… I hope you know how grateful I am for your service to our country… I hope you know how much I value my freedom and what you did to protect it.
If you are a Veteran, please know that I thank you… from the bottom of my heart! Thank you for serving, for doing the hard work of protecting the things we so often take for granted… things we perhaps wouldn’t have without your willingness to don that military uniform and face the unknown with bravery, for giving us freedom.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ President John Fitzgerald Kennedy