Tuvalu

Memorial Day has come again and, here in Casa Aylworth, we will remember–not just our men who defended the nation in wartime, but all our loved ones who have passed.

Both Roger and I have fathers who served in the U.S. Navy during WW II. His dad worked radar on the USS Aaron Ward. He was part of the plank crew (the first crew assigned to the Ward) and part of the final crew, the ones who sailed it home to be decommissioned after an enormous sea battle off Okinawa. The Ward knew only about one hour of combat, but during that hour took six kamikazes and a number of direct bomb hits. By the end of that hour, the Ward’s deck rode barely above the water-line. (Note the Ward pictures, before and after.) My husband has always been hugely proud of his father’s wartime service, and rightly so.

My dad always said he never saw battle, that he spent most of the war on a spit of land in the Pacific barely large enough to land a plane. (It’s the island pictured at the top of this page.) We believed him. It was in the aftermath of my parents’ fiftieth anniversary party when a group of relatives sat about relaxing that Dad started to talk: “I landed on FunaFuti on my 21st birthday,” he began, and he told a story none of us had heard about a full moon and bombers, foxholes, and sailors found dead in them the next morning. When he finished, my mother, wide-eyed, said, “People died on FunaFuti?” We heard more  similar stories following that as he opened up about some of what he witnessed, including the aftermath of some of the Pacific’s most terrible battles.

Today we will remember both our dads We will think about all the men who, like my father-in-law, fought the good fight if only for an hour, and all the men like my own dad, who put aside their wartime trauma for ten years or fifty years or forever, and we’ll remember to vote in the coming elections whether we like any of the candidates or not, simply to honor those who died so we might have that privilege.

We will also remember both our moms, my husband’s only brother, and a granddaughter we lost when she was three months old. We’ll pay respects to friends and neighbors, and others we care about as well.

We will not attend the Silver Dollar Fair, the annual four-day fair that has been a fixture in our town for decades. Many things aren’t happening this year because of the lockdowns, including one grandson’s high school graduation and our Golden Wedding Anniversary, coming in next month.

“Staying safe by staying home” won’t keep us from remembering all those we have loved and love still, and it won’t keep us from honoring all who have served so that we might have the freedoms we enjoy today.

May you all have a peaceful and pleasant Memorial Day.