‘Dulce et decorum est’ … Memorial Day

My grandfather’s younger brother, my great-uncle Walter, fought with the 104th Infantry and died in action in France in 1944. Above is a photo from Find A Grave.com of Walter Aldrich’s gravestone in Lorraine American Cemetery, near Metz, France, one of 10,000 Americans buried in that cemetery. It is the largest American World War II cemetery in Europe.
My family is not one that talks much about its military service, but many members on both sides served. Today is Memorial Day, and my family’s attitude of doing service because service is what one does without expectation of reward is worth celebrating.

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For Those Left Behind: Memorial Day 2017

“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly—but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.”—Ernie Pyle, World War II journalist, writing about what he saw at the front. Killed in action April 18, 1945.

I do not come from a family that talks much about its military service. My father was drafted in 1958, served his two-year-long tour, and then came back home to a job that had been held for him. This was during the Cold War, so he did not see action but he did see more of the world than he had up till then, or since. He served in the U.S. Army in Germany during the Cold War as a calculator tasked with determining missile flight paths. (I believe he worked with the Atlas missile, an early ICBM model.)
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Memorial Day 2016: ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’

“Their life consisted wholly and solely of war, for they were and always had been front-line infantrymen. They survived because the fates were kind to them, certainly—but also because they had become hard and immensely wise in animal-like ways of self-preservation.”—Ernie Pyle, World War II journalist, writing about what he saw at the front. Killed in action April 18, 1945.

In America, today is Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for those Americans who died in war. There is a long history behind this day, which was first named “Decoration Day,” as those in mourning for dead relatives would decorate the graves of the dead soldiers. It dates from shortly after the Civil War. Memorial Day is a commemoration, not celebration, as this is not a day for celebrating.

The commemoration that this day represents is an acknowledgment that soldiers are sent to fight and many die. War is a saddening, maddening fact of life, whether or not it ought to be.
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A Sunny Day

My current crush and I will visiting the same local pond I wrote about a year ago in “Forever Snug.” It is Memorial Day weekend in the United States, and summer appeared here last week in the Mid-Hudson Valley with a surprising suddenness. Or that was just me not noticing things, a terrible habit for someone who types as much as I do. The column, edited to reflect 2016:

It was one of those days in which the lifeguards outnumbered the swimmers. We were at a local park that features a small lake and beach: on holiday weekends families travel to more prominent parks that feature rides as an added distraction. So the crowds were elsewhere even on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and we were one couple out of maybe ten groups. Two families, each with three water-loving toddlers, splashed about, and none of the children were yet old enough to test their limits against the flimsy, algae-covered nylon rope demarcating the “deep end” of the pond on three sides. The lifeguards chatted with the families, flirted with each other, bought each other ice cream, and burned off the ice cream calories breaking each others’ speed records chasing after the tuneful ice cream truck.
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