The price of war

Today, Monday, May 29, our nation chooses to mark as the official Memorial Day. Consider what this day means.

Quite a few of our neighbors and some members of my family served in the military during and just after World War II. All but one of them survived and returned home. Star banners decorated many windows in our neighorhood, but only one bore a gold star. Roger Wallace, who served in the U.S. Marines, lived with his family a couple of blocks away from our Baltimore row house.  When he was killed in combat, word spread quickly, and the whole neighborhood mourned.

My cousin Richard Stewart served in the Navy on a mine sweeper in the Pacific. Dangerous work. When his ship arrived on California’s coast at war’s end, it looked like a sieve, He told his family. Blessed with a perpetual grin and a sense of humor to match it, Rich nevertheless turned serious when discussing his wartime experience.

My brother Jack joined the Army in 1947, just after the war. Assigned to the Signal Corps, he started out as a telephone lineman, then his assignment changed to special services photographer, and he was shipped to Okinawa, documenting U.S. forces’ efforts to mop up in the aftermath of fighting there that took place there. He returned, safely but afflicted with malaria, in 1950. Jack died in 2003. Richie Stewart passed away last year.

We all have memories of loved ones or friends who sacrificed their lives or their limbs as a result of war. Remembering them is fitting on this special day and all other days.  This is the least we can do to honor them and those who loved them. Love them still.

Many years after World War II, Betsy’s nephew lost both of his legs above the knee when his vehicle hit a road bomb in Iraq. Today, our nation’s troops are fighting in several places overseas. The madness continues. Will we ever learn?

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