And while we understand the message, the meaning behind Memorial Day, it doesn’t always hit home with those of us who have never stepped foot on a battlefield, lost someone to war, or grew up without ever having to question the security our freedom.
But their comes a point when the raw truth behind Memorial Day finds each of us, touches us in a way that both saddens and inspires us, and makes our hearts swell with pride for each of the men and women who gave their lives to protect our own.
Preparing for this week’s Memorial Day section of the newspaper, I was handed a box filled with hundred of photos of the faces of Macon County’s World War II soldiers and several binders, each page inside telling the stories of their lives during the war and in some cases, giving an account of their tragic deaths.
Sifting through the faded, black and white photos, each face full of youth and courage, I was overwhelmed with a feeling I couldn’t exactly define, and as I began to read their stories, the horrific things they witnessed, the courage they exuded and the names of family members who prayed nightly that they would never hear that knock at the door, I could only describe it as gratitude.
Their eyes shimmering with confidence in a time of uncertainty, their photos gave World War II, a battle fought years before my time, a name, a face and a family; their accounts of war and the facts of many of their deaths, reached out from each sheet of paper and taught me more than any history book ever had.
And while I have forgotten many of the dates, names and facts I once studied on note-cards in the hopes of passing a test, those stories of courage and the faces of those soldiers who never came home will forever be engrained in my mind; the last moments of their lives spent to protect our own.