I never met my Grandfather. My mother lost her father at the age of 10 during World War II.
Paul Gubert was a physical education teacher who taught mom how to ski. After the attack on Pearl Harbor he felt an obligation to join the Navy even though he was in his early thirties. Mom doesn’t remember the day her father left for the Navy, but she remembers the day the telegram arrived that changed her life. In the 1940s and 1950s it was not common for women to work but my grandmother, left to support two young girls, had little choice.
Every Memorial Day we went to the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of our relatives. Even in death my grandmother did not have her husband because my grandfather is buried at sea. Growing older I gained a deeper appreciation of the impact on my mother. As the older sister, mom helped take care of Aunt Polly, cook dinner and clean the house. War cost her the childhood many others, myself included, take for granted. On her wedding day her father was not there to walk her down the isle.
Later in life, as an officer in the US Army, mom’s experience reminded me of the need to take care of families on deployments. Through mom’s stories and my own experience I recognize all that our military families face. Since September 11th we have lost over 5000 service members. They leave behind mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, spouses and children. These families join a long line of people who grew up never knowing someone special lost in previous wars. As you sit down for dinner to “celebrate” Memorial Day remember there are families across our country who have an empty chair at their table.
How will you honor those that sacrificed so much so you can enjoy your freedom? Remember, your freedom didn’t come without a cost.