Service, sacrifices remembered with love
May 20, 2009
I've always wondered about that endearing connection between fallen Soldiers and the returning veterans who come back to honor and remember them.
Like one Memorial Day ceremony in Margraten American Cemetery in Holland. At its conclusion, I decided in the time I had left to walk through as many of the rows of heroes as possible and say their names, see where they were from. See if there was anybody from my state, that's Texas, HOOAH! I wanted to say thanks and reassure them they are not and will never be forgotten.
Within in a few minutes, an elderly woman came jostling by. She caught my attention for many reasons. First she was dressed rather oddly in an old-fashioned dress accompanied by a dated hat.
Despite the solemn occasion, she had a brilliant grin on her face. And although a senior citizen, there was a defiant spring in her step - definitely a lady with a purpose.
The huge bag she carried was what really sparked my curiosity. I couldn't imagine what was in it, but I didn't have to wait long to find out.
She stopped about five markers down from me and began pulling various items out. The first was an old Army jacket that she lovingly placed around the horizontal arms of the cross.
Next, she spread out a most beautiful quilt, undoubtedly homemade, and then strategically placed various pieces of memorabilia about.
There was a vast assortment of pictures and what looked like high school or college year books. There was even an old kewpie doll I decided the Soldier she was visiting had won for her, and she'd kept it all these years.
It was her next item that sent me and other onlookers frantically searching for a handkerchief. After a close inspection of a champagne bottle, she expertly uncorked it, and poured two glasses.Then came what I can only describe as an eloquent toast to her "hero." After placing his glass gently in front of the memorial, she seated herself for what was obviously going to be a long afternoon's visit.
That was the moment I knew: the lady was on a date! And then it all made sense. Her outfit was from the '40s. I fantasized this must have been what she was wearing when they met, maybe on their first date.
The champagne was undoubtedly left over from their wedding and she had saved it for just this moment. When she held up the pictures I assumed they were of children, and I hoped he'd had the chance to know them.
The desire to join and learn about her special quest was raging inside me, but to intrude on such a personal observance would have been unforgivable. I resumed my own mission and every so often checked to see how the "date" was going. Each time I found her holding up pictures or other mementos and conversing heartily.
Later, I found out her Soldier was simply her fiancAfA. They had never had the chance to marry, raise a family or grow old together. And while she had resumed her place in life with a career and considerable volunteering, she had chosen not to enter into another personal relationship. It was enough for her to come back every year on Memorial Day and celebrate it in this same fashion. At the last count, she's kept the date for 43 years. I like believing she's there every Memorial Day.
There were other private memorial services held by veterans throughout the cemetery that afternoon. I truly believe each and every conversation and prayer shared that day were heard by the living and those destined never to return home.
I distinctly detected the soft drawl of a young man whose marker indicated he was from Texas. He was asking me if I was available for a little Texas two-step that evening to which I replied, "You bet, Soldier!"