Monday, May 19, 2014

Pause to Honor

I’ve never been to war. Not the official kind declared by Congress and waged between countries, that is.  But a war has landed in my lap, nonetheless.

In an odd stroke of fortune, a family member’s private treasury of World War II era snapshots came into my possession.  Dozens of photographs, seen by only a handful of people during all these years, show soldiers with artillery, in training fields, at bombing zones, and more.

None of the faces are familiar to me, yet when I browse through the photo collection, as I do from time to time, I hear these soldiers speak.

A1Young men in uniform, called to exhibit a level of courage far greater than their years should allow, tell their tales in tones of black and white, sepia.

Across the decades, they chant, “I am willing.” Willing to cross oceans and foreign terrain to protect my homeland. Willing to defend the freedom I too often take for granted. Willing to risk their lives and limbs--for me, for us.

As I study images of what many call “The Greatest Generation,” the story of war in general takes shape, and details draw me deeper.

A2Tiny hints, like the wedding band this bandaged soldier wears, add layer upon layer to the tale. What about this soldier’s wife, for example? Did she pine for him as she washed laundry and dishes, wishing his items were among the soiled because that would mean, at least, that he was home? Did she keep his portrait on the mantel, her heart wavering between pride and heartbreak each time she passed through the room?

A3Did she pray for him night after endless night as she, resisting fitful sleep, feared her worst nightmares might come true? Did she wait daily upon the front stoop with bated breath for the postman to deliver the latest news that all is well, if life on the battlefield can ever be so?

Did that good news arrive?

Silence washes over me as I sift through these rare snapshots of war’s destruction.

Bombed villages.A4

 

Demolished homes.A6

Crumbling churches.A5

All representing lives shattered, forever changed.

And too many lives cut short.A8

What will I do with these amazing pieces of history? Store them away, as I’ve done since the day I received them? Perhaps. Draw upon the stories they reveal to pen a future novel? I hope.

[caption id="attachment_465" align="alignleft" width="125"] Diana Prusik, Photographer[/caption]

But today, I share a few of them with you in hopes that together, we will be mindful of our service men and women, past and present, and remember that freedom comes with a price too many have paid in full.

This Memorial Day, between lighting our backyard grills, diving into our swimming pools, and slicing our season's first watermelon, let us pause to honor those who have fought and died to protect our little patch of America. Let us answer their unspoken battle cry, “I am willing,” with a heartfelt, “THANK YOU!”

And most of all, let our lives be worthy of their sacrifices so they will not have served and died in vain.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing these. I am just opening some doors in my own history and am learning the value of items such as the ones you came upon. Sharing them is the best thing you can do!

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  2. Awesome, touching post, Diana! Thank you for sharing...

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  3. Diana, this is one of the most humbling time periods in our history. The sacrifices brave men and women have given for our freedoms still continue today. Thank you for sharing your pictures!

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  4. I am the type to wonder about strangers daily lives, especially those from long past. I love that someone else does this too. I also love that I recognized the painted window at the end. Thanks for sharing these, they are amazing.

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  5. Thanks so much for posting this wonderful tribute to our fallen service men and women! Whenever I meet a soldier, I try to thank him/her for their sacrifice. They really crave those thank yous that so few seem to give.

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  6. You are very welcome, Delia. Thank you for reading and leaving feedback, especially when I know your schedule is pressing!

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  7. Tanya, you are absolutely right. We owe these heroes so much more than a moment of remembrance on Memorial Day. Thank you for reinforcing their significance to our lives today!

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  8. Eileen, I am so glad to know you honor our soldiers and express your gratitude directly. I'll never forgot one year when my 8th grade students created a local Vietnam veterans wall in the school hallway as a culminating activity. After seeing his name listed, our custodian came to my classroom to thank me with tears in his eyes, saying, "Mrs. Prusik, this is the first time I've ever been recognized for my service." That should never be!

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  9. Such a beautiful post, Diana! And those pictures are amazing! Wow! Very cool. Thanks for posting them, and for reminding us to honor our soldiers.

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