In my neighborhood, there lived a man named Jim. He was a very gentle and quiet soul. In social settings, his wife usually did the talking so it was rare to hear his voice or his stories. Sometimes, as I was driving by his house, I would see him collecting his mail and I would stop to talk to him. Jim would talk about his jobs and his plants. He offered to help my son with math. He knew I was the caregiver for our neighbor, Pat. During one of our chats, Jim offered to stop by and show us his medal collection from his time as a young soldier in World War II.
Jim was in his late 80’s. He walked over to Pat’s house carrying a very large shadowbox with many medals inside. He patiently explained each medal to us and when and how he had received them. Then he told us a little of his war background. Like most soldiers, there were many things he saw and experienced that he took to his grave without sharing. He had helped to free a concentration camp; those memories were locked away inside of him permanently. He was a radio man and was integral to his unit’s communications; his hearing was badly damaged in an explosion while he was doing his duties. He spoke with complete admiration and devotion of his commanding officer. He said there had been a situation where his unit was running out of food. Jim still had a chocolate bar in his pack and gave it to the officer who gratefully accepted it. “I really love chocolate,” he said and began to choke up at the memory of those days.
There was something very sweet about Jim. He passed away in 2013 after having lived a long, interesting, and prosperous life. He was survived by two devoted women, his wife and his daughter. He was a true hero. Memorial Day is for soldiers like Jim, who gave up their youth for their country. Wishing you all a peaceful day.