Memorial Day is celebrated annually the last Monday of May which is the 28th this year.
It is a holiday but more especially a particular day for all Americans to honor those personnel who died while serving their country in the armed forces. Too, in a broader context, the day is set aside to honor all veterans who served their country. Like many other holidays, the real intent is sometimes overwhelmed by a higher priority being given to it as a celebratory occasion, a time for fun and games; how soon many forget. It reminds me of the phrase used to apply to politicians seeking office who despite their past efforts to please their constituents, many time are faced with a “What have you done for me lately?” lament. Many citizens have short memories.
The family of E.P. and Katie Elkins Lee of which I am a part consisted of 6 boys and 3 girls. No one expected girls to serve in the military during my youth but of the 6 boys, all (1-2-3-4-5-6) served their country willingly and honorably with a little help from Selective Service. There was never even a thought of ‘Hell no, I won’t go.’ While there are probably other families in Dillon County whose family members served in greater numbers, no family had a higher percentage of male family members in the service than ours that is 100%.
I was in my early teens during WWII and the oldest son living with my parents (and one who could use the typewriter) but three of my brothers were away serving their country. One was in an MP detachment in Kansas, another was in Europe in a combat AAA Battery and the third was and infantryman in the Pacific, the only one to be awarded a Purple Heart.
Back home it was my duty to be the correspondent. In a previous column, I mentioned how I managed to write to all three of my brothers at the same time by using thin air mail stationery and 2 sheets of carbon paper enabling me to make triplicate copies. It was challenging to type without mistakes and even more so to make corrections which were seldom offered. Whichever brother got the third copy received a ‘dim’ view of what was going on back in Hamer.
Of the other brothers, one served in the US Air Force, another in a NG Tank Company and the writer served in Europe as a clerk in Germany. Except for basic training, it was the longest ‘vacation’ I ever had.
While I technically served in the Korean Conflict (War) and at the time, shooting was going on, but somehow, providentially, I was shipped to the opposite side of the then ‘peaceful’ non-shooting world to serve the remainder of my two year tour of duty. I earned two ribbons representing the EUCOM Medal and the (naturally) Good Conduct Medal.
I am not a professional flag waver, but I do have great pride in having served my country. I still get a thrill when I hear the national anthem played or sung (most of the time when it is recognizable) or when I am in the presence of the flag being raised.
While I never questioned my duty to serve my country, I must admit that, at the time, if there had been some legal, moral way for me to keep out of the Army, I probably would have followed it. Thankfully, I am proud it never came about.
The C I C / O I C Up There made the right decision.
God Bless America!
P.O. Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547