Memorial Day column: World War I relic presents humbling prospectI know this will sound unbelievable, but my grandfather’s World War I uniform has been willed to our youngest son, who is a history and philosophy major in college.
By: Kate Soucheray, Woodbury Bulletin
I know this will sound unbelievable, but my grandfather’s World War I uniform has been willed to our youngest son, who is a history and philosophy major in college. His greatest area of interest is relating to others how what he has learned through history influences our choices and decisions today, thus the overlap of his two majors.
Regarding the uniform, my grandfather was a tall man for his day, as he stood at 6 feet 5 inches, and was slim, due to his farming background – plowing the fields and tending to any number and variety of chores and duties rendered through agriculture. Our son is 6 feet 4 inches and is also slim, due however, to his love of running and the proverbial 5K. He is a perfect match to be the trustee of this esteemed uniform.
We do not have possession of the ancient artifact yet, however, as it has been willed to him and is in the dependable keeping of another relative, several miles away. Just knowing, however, that it will one day be his, especially as Memorial Day approaches, is a humbling prospect for our son.
I’m not sure he has even thought about putting it on, let alone walking in a parade or attending a memorial reenactment for the soldiers of its day, but just knowing that it will one day belong to him is somewhat of a burden for him, it seems. What will he do with it? How will he keep it in the pristine condition it currently holds, and if he does one day decide to wear it, how will it feel to put on a garment that was literally worn in combat? It is a bit of a staggering concept and one that he will wrestle with as he comes to terms with how he will honor the uniform and all it represents.
As we celebrate Memorial Day this upcoming Monday, how will you honor the soldiers who have fought in wars to help our country maintain its union status, or to defend the rights of world citizens to live a free and humane life? Those who have been willing to stand for freedom and all it represents whether here in the United States and abroad, have done so courageously and selflessly for what they believed was right and just. It has not been without a cost to these service people and those they love.
Whether it is a young man or woman who has recently graduated from one of our local high schools, or a father or mother in the National Guard, these soldiers have fought bravely because they responded to a call to serve and protect others. Some are returning from their tours of duty with physical or psychological wounds. And how will we help them? How will we recognize this and react to them when we encounter something they say or do, or when something elicits an emotion in us? We will be respectful and kind or will we be judging and mean?
This would be a worthy subject to discuss with your children before they come in contact with a soldier. Take time to discuss with them, whether they are little children, middle school age or high schoolers, what they may encounter. By simply providing an opportunity for them to talk about what it feels like to see someone who is different, due to having lost a leg or an arm, and having a prosthetic limb, will be helpful to everyone concerned.
Encourage your children to respond with gratitude toward the service men and women whom they encounter, and perhaps even to say thank you to them, for their dedication and willingness to serve in this way. Taking the time and expending the energy to do so as Memorial Day approaches will likely elicit greater empathy and a more mature response from your children than stares and questions that could embarrass everyone involved.
So as our son grapples with the meaning of the uniform that has been willed to him, he too must come to terms with how he feels about those who have chosen to serve so bravely today. My hope is that it will bring about a new awareness of gratitude for those who have chosen a different path than he.
Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and a licensed family therapist