Memorial Day

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

Randy Affield Boot Camp picture 1973 (est date)

Herman Arthur Affield U.S. Army, World War II, 1916-1971

Herman, after North Africa, 1944

Henry O. Philips, U.S. Army World War I and World War II (maternal grandfather) 1894-1957

1935-01-01 (est date)Henry Olmsted Philips. Between the wars

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.

Memorial Day

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.


  1. Bonnie says:

    We can be proud of the three generations in our family who have served.(Herman’s birth date is incorrect.)

  2. Laurel Hofmann says:

    Your poem is beautiful. I have many fond memories of Randy, Herman, a nd Henry. I think of them always. We keep them “alive” by sharing.

  3. Susan Jackson says:

    My husband, Larry C. Jackson, was roommates with Randy when he died. Randy was like the brother he never had. We would GREATLY like to connect with anyone from Randy’s family. Larry was with him when he was “recruited” for that fateful flight and has retold the story of those last few hours to so many people. Because he had never met Randy’s wife, and because he was on continued deployment for the months following, he has had no opportunity to share his condolences, his memories, nor his high regard for Randy with Randy’s family. If ANY family member(s) would get into touch with us, we would be so very appreciative. Larry has wondered about Randy’s children and widow often.


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