In honor of Veteran's Day, I decided not to go "wordless", but to share this photo and letter I found at the newly-opened World War II Memorial in Washington, DC. As with the Vietnam Memorial, I found mementos and messages left at the Memorial by people remembering loved ones or simply offering the sacrifices of the soldiers who served in that war. The photo was displayed along with this letter, which seems an appropriate way to remember those who have risked their lives that we might enjoy our freedom:
June 26, 2004
We were both born more than 20 years after victory finally came over the Germans and the Japanese. You protected our parents, who were still children, not fully aware of the shadows that hung over them, during the years when you took to the battlefields, the seas, and the air. We grew up luxuriously, at least compared to most of the world, and we were freely able to attend college, seek employment, get married, and have a child. These are all gifts from God, but they are gifts you helped procure for us long before we were even conceived. You, who died in so many awful ways; you, who saw the worst things men’s eyes could ever endure; you, who did the dirtiest, hardest, most hellish work imaginable; you, who had to kill, because there was no other choice; you, who left behind dead friends that you loved more than yourselves; you, who lost legs and arms and feet and hands; you, who returned to your loved ones in victory, though you left pieces of your hearts behind with those buried on Pacific islands, or in Europe’s fields, or in the boundless oceans.
You were not, and you are not, heroes of marble. You are heroes because you were boys, flesh and blood, having to do what none of you (or us) would have chosen in the best of worlds. But you did it. You fought to preserve what goodness there was, and for the potential of goodness even in the midst of darkness; nothing could be simpler than that, yet nothing could be more profound. We grieve, even now, for you the dead soldiers of World War II, and wish we could have met you as old men, surrounded by loved ones, serene in your twilight years. Your buddies, many who (we are so glad) remain with us, wish the same. Life is full of great beauty, wrapped in sorrow.
We often are told that no words can describe certain thoughts or feelings. But we have these words for you: thank you, we love you, and though we know we often take you for granted, we will never forget you, we promise. Our son will know about you, and his children will know about you, and we will do what we can to tell anyone else about the men and women of WWII, because we owe you. Thank God for you, and thank God for our country.
(Names were withheld to protect the privacy of those who left the letter)