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Growing up, Memorial Day meant two things. Visiting my Grandpa Gene’s grave, and handing out poppies. I know that this holiday is meant to honor those who’ve died while serving our country, but in my family we also honored people like my grandfather – who survived World War II.
With my Grandma Susan, my mom and younger sister Shelia
Susan & Gene
My Grandpa Gene died when I was five. Unfortunately, some of my most vivid memories of him are during hospital visits when he was suffering from emphysema. There are a lot of great stories about Grandpa (particularly his sense of humor) but like a lot of World War II veterans he didn’t share much about his experiences overseas. In spite of that, there was always a feeling of pride surrounding his service, and we honored that by visiting the cemetery on holidays like this one.
Some of you may be familiar with the Memorial Day poppy. When I was a kid, my friend Jessica and I would pass them out during the Memorial Day parade in Chadron. Jessica’s Grandpa Jerry was also a veteran, and very involved in the American Legion and VFW. I don’t know that we had a very firm grasp on the meaning of the poppies, but we knew giving them out in exchange for donations was a good cause.
If you didn’t buy a poppy, or visit a friend or loved one’s grave on this Memorial Day – at least take a moment to reflect on how blessed we Americans are, and how much of that is because of men and women who sacrificed their lives.