My grandmother rarely mentioned him. But every once in a while a comment would slip through her lips about her brother. He was born on July 4, 1924 and died by sniper fire somewhere in the cold mountains of Nazi Germany on October 1, 1944. He was laid to rest on a beautiful hillside overlooking the Vosges Moutains in Epinal, France next to 5,255 of his brothers in arms. He was only 20. His name was Alvin.
When my grandmother passed away in 1998, we found pictures, letters, certificates and other memorabilia that represented the life of her baby brother. She had packed them up in a couple of boxes and tucked them away, much the same way I think she did with her heartache over the loss of her only sibling.
His death forever changed the course of our family. The relationships between my grandmother and her mother, my grandmother and her children – I feel were quite different than they would have been had he lived. A piece of my grandmother died the day she received news that he was killed in action. And I feel that a little bitterness set in, took hold, and never quite let go.
I feel honored to have my great uncle Alvin in my family tree, for his sacrifice in the name of our country and for the love he had for his big sister. Something I only realized after reading the sweet letters he sent home.
With another great uncle, a grandfather, three uncles and my own father that served in the military, all during wartime, I grew up learning that our great country is only great because of men and women who are willing to put their lives at risk to defend our honor, our freedoms.
For those in my family and those millions of others who have sacrificed so much for our security and comfort I would like to say thank you. This Memorial Day is an opportunity to say I am so grateful for your commitment and ultimate sacrifice.
When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today. ~ The Kohima Epitaph