The genesis of this post started many years ago, and I tend to edit and revise it each year. Maybe one day it will do justice to the day and those I remember on Memorial Day. Crossposted at Laughing Wolf
Foster Powers USN, KIA 1945
To the God in Man displayed -- Where'er we see that Birth, Be love and understanding paid As never yet on earth!
To the Spirit that moves in Man, On Whom all worlds depend, Be Glory since our world began And service to the end!
Final stanzas, The Choice, Rudyard Kipling
Let me start with the end, instead of the beginning. I am not asking that we make Memorial Day somber and solemn, a thing without levity or fun. I know none who have served who would want that, particularly those who did not come home. We should enjoy the day and the weekend in their honor, so that they and the reason for this day are not forgotten.
My Dad did not like to make a big fuss on Memorial Day. We did not troop to any cemetery, nor do I remember attending any services when young. Looking back, I think it was still too personal and painful for him, for he remembered the fallen almost every day. For he lost family, and helped bury his fellow Marines on various islands across the Pacific. It was not something he wanted to share, to talk about, or for me to ever understand. More than once when discussing funeral plans, he said that he simply wanted to be wrapped in a blanket and put in the hole, as if it were good enough for the Marines in the Pacific, it was good enough for him.
For me, I'm not sure when Memorial Day became more than just a holiday. I think it changing had to do with my wanting to know more about my Uncle Foster. I never met him, as he was killed in one of the last torpedo plane raids on Japan. As I learned of him, I began to learn of others, and the day took on more reality for me as I grew. I discovered this year that the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC, an organization I feel needs to be scrapped and restarted) lists him as MIA in 1946. How they got the date, I don't know, but it does not match the information I was given.
When told of the loss, Dad was supposed to meet with Foster's squadron commander who was on a ship nearby. However, fleet movements prevented that, and Dad instead talked with him on the radio. He was told that Foster's plane went down in a manner that indicated the pilot was dead (or unconscious), and that none of the crew made it out. I still hope that one day his plane is found. I've visited the Punchbowl, and seen his name on the memorial wall there.
It hurt me, badly, when as a child my father told me he hoped I would never qualify for membership in the American Legion. As that young child, I did not understand why he felt that way, though I do now. I understand better than he would have ever wanted, though I disagree with part of his position.
Memorial Day has grown for me, and it is much more than just my Uncle Foster. I know part of it changed after 10/23/1983, and I had to begin remembering LCPL Bill J. Stelpflug. In college, I knew his sister (a beautiful woman) and his mother, who was part of the English Department as a GTA if I remember correctly. He and his brothers were a factor in the thinking of those of us who wanted to date his sister... His sister was the subject of one of the first, and worst, photoshoots I ever did. Never did share those photos, as they did not do her justice.
Today, it is the names of those who have fallen since 9/11 that I knew online and in life. It became the names of those I came to know second hand courtesy of my embeds, men I wish I had known first hand: