MY GRANDFATHER was a WWII veteran. He died when I was nine, and so did the stories that he might have been inclined to share.
I have old photos of him in uniform, and I know a few of the jolly stories – including how he courted my grandmother – family folklore that made us kids giggle. But I do not know the anguish, the pain, the horror he experienced as a WWII soldier.
Hence the silence that was draped all over my thoughts when, as a kid, I was passing by the cemetery. There were many rows of graves of WWI and WWII soldiers; the tombstones that said ‘unknown soldier’ were far more numerous than the ones with a name. Back then, as a child, I shuddered thinking what it must be like to lose my mom or dad that way.
On the one day when their sacrifice was acknowledged, which in my birth country was Oct. 25, each tombstone carried a wreath; I got to lay a few during my school years, as many kids did. The reverence born out of that gesture never left me.