EVERY MEMORIAL DAY, my emotions rise, sometimes spilling into tears. This year, 2021, proved no exception.
As I listened to speakers during a Memorial Day program at Faribault’s Central Park, a sense of loss, of sorrow, of grief descended on me. It is the personal stories that always get me.
When Honored Combat Veteran Donald F. Langer spoke of losing his soldier-buddy John, I thought of my dad losing his soldier-friend Ray during the Korean War. Decades removed from Vietnam and John’s death, Langer’s grief still runs deep. I could hear it in his words.
I heard, too, of the challenges he faced while on R & R. He didn’t fit into civilization, Langer said, so he returned early to the jungle rather than continue his respite separated from his fellow soldiers. And when he exited war via a flight out of Saigon, Langer carried with him the trauma of war.
These are the stories we need to hear. To personalize war. To make it about more than patriotism and fighting for freedom and serving country. Behind every platitude are individuals who loved and were loved. Who were forever changed.
Emcee Gordy Kosfeld shared a poignant story pulled from Guidepost magazine about a young soldier killed in Italy. Uncle Bud, who loved his dog, Jiggs. And Maria. In his riveting radio storytelling voice (KDHL), Kosfeld had the audience listening with attentiveness.
While I listened, my thoughts drifted to my dad, recipient of the Purple Heart. He made it out of Korea alive, but not without trauma.
Bud was killed in action. John, too. And Dad’s buddy, Ray. So when the honor guard fired their guns and the bugler played Taps and the women laid wreaths representing our nation’s wars and the pastor prayed and we sang patriotic songs and the color guard retired the colors, I thought of the sacrifices made by so many. They are the reason we gather on Memorial Day. To remember. To honor. To consider the ultimate sacrifice of dying for country.
Please check back for one more post from Memorial Day in Faribault. A light-hearted moment that eased the grief I was feeling.
© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling