While my dad was never in the military, and not even politically active, he taught us Little girls a reverence for war and history. From a young age I remember watching depictions of famous battles or wars, including Saving Private Ryan and We Were Soldiers. I think he has the entire Band of Brothers series on DVD. (And who can forget the beloved Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump??)
My mom, and her brother, were always interested in the Civil War and I learned an appreciation for that epic chapter of history at an early age, too. I could recite names and I knew the dates before my social studies teacher even taught me. I was probably in junior high when I first read Killer Angels, the second in a trilogy of historical fiction about the Civil War.
From there, my interest in war stories grew. While it was not until much later that my dad’s dad, my grandpa, told me, well, anything about his experience in the Korean War, I had learned so much about history through written accounts of the Holocaust, the Civil War, and even the Mexican-American War. I’m not sure what it was that drew me in to nonfiction. Maybe it was the stories of heroism, or unimaginable courage.
I have never personally lost a loved one to war. And I pray I never have to. When my husband joined the US Army, my appreciation for the military was rekindled. My grandparents were actually the first people we told about Aaron’s enlistment, because we knew they would understand. From there, a door into my grandpa’s past seemed to open. I’ve seen his Class A’s from 1952, and a map of North Korea that he’s kept all these years. We had even more in common when Aaron was stationed just miles from the DMZ. I’m thankful to have heard stories, even when they’ve evoked tears and hard emotions.
My grandparents keep in touch with their GI buddies. They’ve gone to numerous reunions, and have grieved when hearing of one’s death. I thank my grandfather for his service, though involuntary.
I continue to be enthralled by war stories, most notably those of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I just cannot get enough of the first-hand eyewitness accounts. Running the Bataan Memorial Death March is my way of honoring the fallen of not only the real Bataan Death March, but those past, present and future. It’s a way to show my personal sacrifice, though it will never compare to theirs.
Whether we’re spouses, widows, grandchildren, active duty servicemembers, friends.. something binds us all together beyond the colors of Old Glory.
It’s reverence, and remembrance. How will you honor the fallen?