Today a repeat post from three years ago...
Friday, May 24, 2013It's Memorial Day weekend, a day to remember those men and women who paid the ultimate price while serving our country. Memorial Day is often confused with Veteran's Day, which is meant to honor all who serve and have served, whether they died or lived to return home again. I will admit I have often melded the two days of remembrance into one, neglecting to specifically remember the fallen. Perhaps that is because my personal circle is too small. I know many who have served, but none who died while serving our country.
Packed away in an old box in the corner of my closet is a stack of old photographs. Some are curled and faded from the years. In one box is a photograph of an old woman sitting by a white marble cross in a graveyard full of marble crosses. I recognize her face from another photo and know her to be my father's Great Aunt Hattie. Other than the fact that she was my great grandfather's older sister, I knew little of this woman. Her photos led me to believe she was a rather unhappy individual. I'd never seen a photo of her smiling, only the sad cemetery photo and two others of her squinting into the sun while standing by her brother. (He wasn't smiling either, but I knew him to be happy. I have other pictures of him.)
A month or so ago, I learned the story behind the cemetery full of crosses and the sad woman seated amongst them. Aunt Hattie Shafer Willis was a Gold Star Mother of World War I. Her son, Sergeant George M. Willis, was killed in action during a battle in farway France.
During the first World War, a flag with a gold star identified families who had lost soldiers. Grieving women were “Gold Star” mothers and widows. Between 1930 and 1933, the United States government took 6,654 Gold Star pilgrims to visit their sons’ and husbands’ graves in American cemeteries in Belgium, England, and France...
In the 1930s, when mothers had heroic stature in the eyes of the nation, the government took thousands of them on trips across the ocean to visit cemeteries in Europe. (http://www.pilgrimageofremembrance.com/)
I was blessed to find a smiling photo of Aunt Hattie on her own memorial web page. I see a familiarity in her face now, a little bit of my own grandma looking back at me, and maybe a little bit of my dad who looked so much like Hattie's father, Garrett Shafer. I have a renewed respect and understanding for this woman. This Memorial Day I take my hat off to all the moms and dads out there who have watched their sons and daughters march off to war, never knowing if and when they will return.
Thank you, Aunt Hattie, for being one of those Gold Star Mothers. And thank you, Uncle George, for giving your life to preserve our freedom.
(And thank you, Ondra and Lisa, for sharing your great grandma's story with me.)
And, in addition to the story, a copy of the postcard George gave his mother just prior to shipping out. He was killed that same year.
This is what I think about the Flag and it is one of the principle reasons I am ready to fight today. Have no fear but what we do for God is with us forever.