There will be parades to mark Memorial Day, war movies will be playing on the TV, and many family members and friends will journey to graves to honor their fallen loved ones. It is a tradition each year that we stop and, no matter how we feel about the politics involved, we remember the soldiers who died while doing their duty. They had courage most of us do not have, and they possessed a sense of purpose to go forward into the mayhem and turmoil of war, perhaps even knowing they weren't coming home.
My father is a veteran of World War II, and he told me a story that I think about many times during the year, but usually around Memorial Day it reminds me of the ultimate sacrifice some people have made. In this case it was an 18-year-old boy named Bobby Sullivan. Four years younger than my Dad, he grew up across the street from my father in Queens, New York. He seemed to always look up to my father, who showed him how to swing a bat, throw a ball, and work on cars.
When my father was drafted in 1942, Bobby would see him come home for a visit wearing his uniform. At 15 years old he was in awe of my Dad, the great smile and glowing freckled face indicating that he was happy to see him but also proud that he knew him. He asked Dad questions about the Army, and Dad did not sugarcoat the experience. He explained about the realities of boot camp and the impending prospect of going overseas. None of this seemed to faze Bobby or make him think that Dad was anything but a superhero.
Well, Dad went off to war, going over to Europe on the Aquitania. He landed in Scotland and took a 20-hour train ride down to the English Channel. Like so many others he went over to France and fought in the war. Eventually he was stationed in the chateau in Fontainebleau, and since his expertise was demolitions, he was kept very busy coordinating the disarming and disposal of unexploded bombs that littered the countryside.