To Honor and Serve
June 1st, 2008 by Sonja

Uncle Ralph

I have three blood uncles.  Two on my father’s side and one on my mother’s.  That’s two brothers to my dad and one brother to my mom.  All three served in the military.  Two (my dad’s brothers) served in World War II.  Interestingly, all of my uncles (by blood or marriage) served in the military.  In my generation, I can only think of three or four cousins (out of about 30) who served.

Yesterday Uncle Ralph, the younger of my dad’s two older brothers, came to town to visit the WWII Memorial.  He came with other WWII veterans in Connecticut and Massachusetts to visit the memorial.  It’s part of a private program that is working diligently to get WWII vets to the memorial before they pass on.  As Uncle Ralph told me yesterday, there are only 10% of the veteran’s left alive today.  One of my older cousins arranged to get my uncle in the program and was his guardian for the trip.

As a pacifist by nature and by choice, I struggle with war and the need for it.  I want to negotiate with evil and find compromises.  I’m not always certain that is possible.  Even though it is my choice.  When I heard about the building of the WWII Memorial I was saddened by the glorification of war.  When I heard about busing vets in to this mecca of war for one last visit, I was cynical.  But our visit there yesterday changed much of that for me.

It was chaotic and messy and slow and hot and beautiful and gracious and happy and the smiles that wreathed those old faces were glorious.  These men (and a very occasional woman) knew how precious life is because life had been lost.  The drums of war were silent here and water in the fountains sprayed and tinkled, reminding us of life lived and worth living.  These were the faces of determination and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Adversity which was not glorified nor was it depicted as something to be put aside.  It is and was a part of life which creates character.  It was that voice that I heard when Uncle Ralph kindly refused the use of a wheelchair, “I never fell out of a 25 mile march and I’ll finish today, thank you, though.”  In his 80’s and he still has something to finish and learn.

I hope I end like that.

3 Responses  
  • cindy writes:
    June 1st, 20089:52 pmat

    i hope i end like that, too, sonja.

  • LightMom writes:
    June 2nd, 20089:48 pmat

    Don’t forget LightDad served in the Air Force during the Korean Conflict although he was stationed in the Territory of Alaska.

  • Sonja writes:
    June 2nd, 200811:20 pmat

    Whoops … I meant to write that in there. That was not forgotten, simply overlooked in the writing … because I’m an airhead. As you know. 😀

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