On May 27, 2013 at 10:30AM, I am honored to be guest speaker for the American Legion, Bagley, Minnesota. Each year on the last Monday of May we honor the memory of those who have served our country and gone before us.
In the 1990s World War II veterans often stopped by to visit with me at Luekens Village Foods where I managed the butcher shop. Several times over the years, a veteran would begin sharing a story of trauma they had experienced during their war. More than once the person walked away, choked up, story unfinished. Today, I realize it was probably the anniversary date and they needed to share it with somebody. Sadly they are gone now. But I credit them with making me realize the importance of writing our stories.
I am currently working on a memoir about our family. On my last blog post, on my Chickenhouse Chronicle page, I spoke of a soldier standing in as one of the groomsmen in my grandparent’s wedding in 1917. The young man was killed in action on October 25, 1918, less than a month before World War One ended. This week I hope to do a bit of research and see if I can find any information on this forgotten soldier. Over the past two centuries, millions of men and women who served our country have died long after they returned home, taking their stories with them.
To today’s young veterans, I encourage you to write. Tell your stories. It is cathartic for the author and it opens a window through which one’s family can glimpse your experiences.
Three generations of veterans from my family are represented in Nebish Community Cemetery:
Randolph Leonard Affield, U.S. Navy, killed, lost at sea, 1951-1978
Herman Arthur Affield U.S. Army, World War II, 1916-1971
Henry O. Philips, U.S. Army World War I and World War II (maternal grandfather) 1894-1957
Each Memorial Day my family and I pay tribute—a few years ago my granddaughters were with us and this poem came to me about my brother who died so young, leaving two babies behind.
She hop-scotches from etched stone to stone,
little sister in her wake, sunshine on her face
joyous at the lilacs, flags, and synthetic bouquets.
Spring brings accolades—melancholy pride.
Yet, each day, I grieve the day you died,
grieve at life you left behind—
You’ll never sit beneath budding oak, watch
ruby breasted bluebirds flash in flaxen dawn,
golden streaks above dewed meadows.
You’ll never walk your daughter down the aisle
or watch your granddaughter
gather blossoms of wild plums and trilliums.
She skips across your stone to me and asks,
“Papa is you sad?”
and offers me a purple sprig, with smile and out-stretched hand.
National Commander Jim Koutz,
I had the honor of meeting you while you were visiting Bemidji, Minnesota. I donate this case (24 books) of Muddy Jungle Rivers for your Operation Comfort Warriors program.
Feel free to use the books in whichever way you think most fitting. (Mailed to National Headquarters Feb 18, 2013.)
Keep up the good work.
cc: Al Zdon, Communications Director/Editor American Legion, Dept of Minnesota