This marks my second summer without my Grampa J.
A peaceful man, he was a reluctant recruit in "Mr. Roosevelt's foreign war" some 70 years ago, but he went when his country called. Unlike so many others, he came home and had a long, productive life afterward, finally passing away in 2008.
After his passing, I was on the phone with my mother, who was left with the task, as both the oldest and closest child, of cleaning out the house. "We have his old Army jacket. Do you want it?"
"I... You mean nobody else does? Yes. I'd be honored."
It hangs in my attic now. The shoulders bear the three chevrons over a "T" of a Technical Sergeant and the collar has the brass insignia of the Signal Corps. He was a cook in France during WWII, and I recall with fondness his proud stories of how he'd baked such wonderful cakes and pies for the officers that they'd pulled levers to keep him in their mess. I've thought about ordering a European - African - Middle Eastern Campaign Medal to pin on his jacket... You know, just because.
But at least Grampa J. came back.
It seems strange to me to have one day set aside to remember those who never did come back. Every day, their memories are all around me, too. Old pistols and rifles... Maybe this particular one never left the continental United States, but maybe the kid who used it to learn his unsought trade in boot camp never returned. Other pieces of memorabilia, both from our wars and foreign ones, clutter my desk, united only in the sacrifices they represent.
When you're surrounded by history every day, you tend to think more about those who made it, and especially those who didn't live to see what they'd made.
If you don't think about it on any other day, then on this one, please... remember.