Monday, May 28, 2012

A Time to Remember and to Say, "Thanks"

Today is Memorial Day here in the United States--a day to remember and pay tribute to those who gave up their lives in service of our country. My heart goes out to all families who have lost loved ones in military service. This loss recently hit close to home with the death of twenty-year-old Army Spc. Samuel Watts of Wheaton, Illinois who died on May 19 after sustaining injuries from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. I didn't know this young man, but he is a former student of the College of DuPage, where I teach, and his mother works for the College. The College Veterans Services office sent an email to the staff reminding us to keep this family in our thoughts and prayers. The email also stated something I didn't know:
In December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law, the National Moment of Remembrance Act, in which Americans are asked to pause for a moment at 3 p.m. [on Memorial Day] to honor those who died in service to the United States.
So, today at 3 p.m., I'll be thinking of Samuel Watts and all the other men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. As Mary Ann wrote on Memorial Day last year:
However you feel about a particular war or "conflict" . . .  the important thing for a writer is to not allow the world to forget the men and women who believed in sacrificing their own dreams and lives in service to their country.
Last year, Mary Ann wrote of the roles her parents and other family members played during World War II. Today, I'd like to honor and say thank you to my father-in-law, Emil Martino, who served as a sergeant in the army signal corps in World War II. I've known my father-in-law for over 30 years, yet it never occurred to me to say "thanks" until he was scheduled to participate in an Honor Flight. The Honor Flight organization transports veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices. The veterans are deeply affected by the experience, as can be seen in this videoclip produced by AARP: (Email subscribers can watch the clip on YouTube here.)

The families and friends of Honor Flight participants are asked to write letters expressing their thanks to these veterans for their service. The veterans then receive the letters during "mail call" on the flight home. I was surprised by how difficult it was for me to write that simple letter to my father-in-law, perhaps because I'm such a pacifist. But I was also ashamed to realize that in all the years I've known him, I'd never thought to say "Thanks" on my own.

Photo by Rick Latoff,
American Battle Monuments Commission

Do you know someone who deserves thanks today? If so, I encourage you to put your thoughts into words, either verbally or in writing, especially if that person is a veteran of World War II. According to the Honor Flight website, we are losing World War II veterans at the rate of approximately 900 per day. Time is running out to show them our gratitude.
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If you haven't read Esther's Student Success Story Interview with Natalie Ziarnik about the publication of her debut picture book, Madeline's Light (Boyd's Mills Press), I hope you'll do so now and enter for a chance to win your own autographed copy.

Happy Writing!


Linda B said...

Thank you for this Carmela. It is a special day. My father died in service during World War II, and many in my family served during that time as well. They are all gone now, so I will say my thanks in a prayer for them, and for a son's friend who gave his life in the Gulf War. I'm sorry to hear of your connection to one who died. I am grateful for those who serve and protect our freedom.

Carmela Martino said...

Saying thanks in a prayer is a lovely idea, Linda. I will do the same to those who no longer with us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you for this loving tribute, Carmela. I would have loved to read the letter you wrote over your father-in-law's shoulder.

I spent Memorial Day with my 91-year-old Uncle Davi, a pilot in the war. I thanked him for all those missions over Italy in which he nearly died.

I, too, am against war and have felt that soldiers contribute to them--how can there be a war if everyone refuses to fight?

But when someone is willing to die because they truly believe it will make the world a better, safer place--wow. I do appreciate that courage and generosity.

Carmela Martino said...

Thanks, April. Blessings to your Uncle Davie.