It’s wedding weekend in the Lyons family — after two COVID-19 postponements, our daughter Megan finally gets to marry her fiancé Eric and so, I’m doing something today I almost never do — running a column from the archives. I wrote this piece my first Memorial Day here in 2016. I hope you’ll agree it still stands up and that you will all keep in mind this weekend those who sacrificed so much for our freedom.
My father never liked to talk much about his days of service during World War II.
I grew up knowing he’d been part of the D-Day invasion in June 1944. Each year, I remember him getting very quiet on June 6. I also remember Mom advising my sister and me not to approach Dad on that day.
One day, though, he opened up a bit. I was in college. Mom was in the hospital and Dad and I had a rare one-on-one dinner out. I was working part-time and intended to pick up the tab — until the reality of what a steak dinner for two would cost hit me. I think I wound up leaving the tip.
I have no recollection of how or why the topic came up, but we started talking about his days in the Army. He reached the rank of Technical Sergeant by the time he got out. He had no use for officers. He told me he remembered being told his unit “would have the honor” of being part of the invasion.
Then I asked him this question: Were you afraid?
“Of course I was,” he said, with a lack of hesitation that, for some reason, surprised me at the time.
He went on to talk about how he learned to deal with his fear, how chaotic things were, how everyone just wanted to get the job done and go home.
I can’t quote precisely anything else he said that evening, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of how special that night was and that I was old enough for my Dad to speak to me about the war as an adult.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. As a kid, I remember it being called “Decoration Day.” That name, I learned from an online search, dated to the Civil War, when people went out to decorate the graves of their departed loved ones who had died in that war.
As a Boy Scout, each year our troop would put flags on the graves of veterans. I am delighted to see that tradition lives on here in the Susquehanna Valley.
While my Dad has been gone since 1981, I know how fortunate I am that he somehow survived the awful D-Day battlefields. So many thousands of others didn’t. If you have never seen the opening scene about the D-Day invasion in the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” you might want to. Be forewarned. It is difficult to watch.
Most of that group that former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation” is gone now. They have been followed by too many more subsequent generations who have fallen on too many other battlefields
They all deserve our thanks and prayers. Flags should fly everywhere tomorrow in their honor.
And if you happen to be at a barbecue somewhere this weekend, be sure to hoist one in their memory. You are there, in no small part, because of them.
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