My oldest son is on an amazing once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe, and while he could have chosen the “rest and relaxation” route of tourism, he set a course to find out more about a man he never met.
This man was once a boy just like him. They just happened to be overseas at the exact same age. The difference is one was there for war, and the other came for discovery. Where one had already chosen his mission in life, the other is exploring a multitude of ways.
So with his path unclear in front of him, my dear boy has chosen to grab hold of this opportunity to explore and see who came before him. He is making his way to see where his great-grandfather served his country, met his wife, and eventually shipped out; forced to leave his wife as she labored to deliver their son.
He toured the now-dilapidated naval airbase that Grandpa called home for several years in England, and he even got to lean on the same wooden doorway frame that Grandpa did generations ago. He met family members and was able to ask my grandmother’s sister questions about the “American” who made his home there while at war. He walked through the village where my father was born, to understand how hard it must have been for his great-grandmother to leave the only place she’d known for her 17 years of life, with a one-year old baby, to make her way across the sea to a country she’d only read about in newspapers. He also learned about Grandpa’s friends who died while overseas and never had the opportunity to be shipped home and live the life he did with his wife and son.
And now today, as we remember our Memorial Day, he is in Normandy, France where he will end his day at the American Cemetery, listening to taps being played at dusk, paying tribute to the heroes– the fallen, those who sacrificed all for him, so that he could be free to explore the world and discover the man he never met.