A grandfather who fought on the beaches of Normandy? No. A father who was in Vietnam? No. A sister who served a tour in Iraq? No. I had none of these.
Other than a few accounts from my husband's grandfather of his naval battles during World War II, I've heard little of what it was like to serve during wartime.
For me, it is movies that have been the best at showing what war is all about.
Lately, I have been trying to improve my movie education by taking on the challenge of seeing all of the films listed in the book 501 Must-See Movies (2014, Bounty Books). The book is broken down into genre sections, and one of the sections is simply titled "War."
Not surprising, many of the fifty war films listed have won Academy Awards® including Best Picture winners All Quiet on the Western Front, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Platoon, and Schindler's List.
I recognize that Hollywood has been known to glamorize war. That sometimes the stories are far-fetched, and in some instances completely fictionalized.
But in other cases, the films get as close to the truth as they can. The directors and producers go to great lengths to make the films as realistic, and as accurate as possible.
If even half of what those films show is true, then I have learned that war is intense, it is cruel, it is unforgiving. There is no "fair" in war, no "winner," no "end."
I attended a funeral this week for a ninety year-old family member who was a veteran and a member of the Greatest Generation. He had served in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. A kind and generous man, he had lived a full, and rich life despite the wars he had fought in.
At the graveside service, with all the loved ones gathered round, I jumped when I heard the first of three rifles blasts shot by the Honor Guard (seniors themselves). And I couldn't help but shed a tear when I heard the bugle play Taps, or when his widow was given the folded American flag, a symbol of a grateful nation.
I have to wonder, how many times did he himself attend a graveside service, much like his, for a comrade or friend?
This Memorial Day, our small Midwestern town will host its annual Memorial Day parade. My two sons will march with their junior and senior high school bands playing popular tunes and entertaining the crowd. Kids will laugh at the clowns, and parents will eagerly take pictures of their children marching with their scout troops.
But the reason for the parade will be ever present.
Our parade goes right past a local cemetery, where the military headstones will all be marked with miniature American flags.
There will be floats filled with seniors wearing military jackets pinned with ribbons and medals earned while serving their country. Some of the veterans will be dressed in leather, riding motorcycles and flying P.O.W. flags on the back of their Harley's.
And, when the Color Guard passes, with our nation's flag held high, the crowd will grow quiet.
In honor of those who have served, or are serving now, we will all stand. We will remove our hats. Some will salute. Others will shed tears.
For myself, having had but a small glimpse of what they may have gone through, I will silently say, "Thank you."
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