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Memorial Day and a flimsy blanket

“Those poor boys in the trenches in Europe, trying to stay warm with these flimsy blankets!”

My mother said that, years ago, about an Army-issue wool blanket that once belonged to her uncle, who fought in World War I.  For me, the blanket became a tangible symbol of some of the hardships that soldiers face.

I’m not sure how Uncle Bud’s blanket ended up in my mom’s possession, but it was the ugliest possible shade of greenish-brown and it was thin, more like a sheet than a blanket.  Years of laundering might have made it thinner still, but it couldn’t have been very warm even when it was brand-new.

By the time I was old enough to know Uncle Bud, he was a gray-haired, cigar-smoking, joke-cracking, life-of-the-party kind of guy.  Sometime between 1914 and 1918, though, he was a farm boy on one of those troop ships headed for Europe, with that thin, ugly blanket to keep him warm.

Civilians can’t really comprehend life in the military, no matter how many books we read or how many movies we watch, and we can’t always understand or approve of the political machinations that accompany every war.  But we can honor the men and women who serve in the armed forces.  Each one of them goes through a million moments of drudgery, fear, camaraderie, pain, pride, bravery, homesickness, and sacrifice.

Some of them come home, like Uncle Bud did, but some of them don’t.  The least we can do is remember.

Edited to add: Today the WordPress home page highlighted a wonderful blog post that shares excerpts from letters that were sent home by a soldier during World War II.  “We Remember: Love, Adrian” is well worth reading.

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Categorized: general blog