Maybe it’s my age, but Memorial Day automatically conjures up images in my mind of the brave, frightened souls who stormed the Normandy beaches that long ago June morning. Or the battle on Okinawa’s Hacksaw Ridge, recently memorialized in Mel Gibson’s movie of the same name.
Sergeant Ed Reiff, USMC, around 1942.
Then there’s my dad, Marine PFC Dave Mizrahi, who fought on Peleliu and other deadly Pacific Islands. And another brave Marine, my Uncle Eddie, who escaped Iwo and Guadalcanal in one piece to tell some harrowing tales… but only toward the end of his long life, when the service began to honor him and his other brothers in arms. My father passed some time ago. Most of them have.
As Author Tom Brokaw called them…the greatest generation. Were they? Maybe so.
After first viewing “Saving Private Ryan” in the theaters way back when I was moved to tears. I got home and immediately called my uncle to thank him profusely for his service. What the men did overseas, and how the women kept the nation moving here at home, defines the meaning of heroism and dedication. It has been said that to lay one’s life down for a friend (let alone a stranger) is the greatest act of love. Hundreds of thousands in WWII—and more than a million in all our wars combined—did that for you and me, and they didn’t even know us. Heroes…each one of them.
It doesn’t escape me that all those other generations that fought to enshrine our freedoms were pretty great too. And my goodness, let us never forget all our law enforcement men and women and firefighters who died doing their duty, and those who continue to protect and to serve their communities. God bless them.
As I reflected on all these amazing sacrifices, from the soldiers in foxholes who threw themselves on grenades to save their comrades to the police and firemen who rushed into the Twin Towers but never walked out, I again thought Memorial Day is one of the great national holidays. A time to wave that Grand Old Flag. The hard part is that it always reminds me of one particular soldier. A walking wounded veteran…my father. The casualties of war, dead and injured, are relatively easy to count in modern day conflicts. It’s the ones who come home dying on the inside that often go unnoticed.
Dave Mizrahi raised me to be a good, respectable, educated American, and I know he loved me. But within his family, we could tell that something wasn’t quite right…probably from before the war and definitely after he came home, and until the day he died, he carried demons that most folks on the outside never glimpsed. They drove him to do things that weren’t so good and respectable.
I bet I’m not the only one who could tell such stories. Our armed services are just now beginning to recognize and treat the mental/emotional scars of war that many of our soldiers bring home with them. Thank God.
It was hard to watch the pain my family of origin experienced. Still, my dad was part of this special generation, and in so many ways, was a wonderful man.
Anyway…if not the greatest generation, a close second?
I don’t know the exact metrics by which to measure such things. Guess my job—and yours—is to never forget them, and tell the succeeding generations of all the great things they did.