Memorial Day with family reminds why sacrifices are made and for whom we make them
By Mike Haynes
Two numbers struck me this Memorial Day: three and four.
Some say that deaths come in threes, and in World War II, that was the case for my family. While at McLean’s Hillcrest Cemetery May 27 for a Memorial Day ceremony, several of us walked over to a flat monument in the shade of a tree. It’s engraved with the names of a trio of cousins; one was killed in the air, one on land and one at sea. It’s inscribed:
“Cpl. S.B. Morse, 1905-1943, U.S. Air Corps, England”
“Sgt. Morse Ivey, 1918-1944, U.S. Infantry, France”
“Jack Bogan, R.M. 1/C, 1922-1945, U.S. N.R., Pacific”
|This cemetery marker for three cousins who died in World War II|
was decorated for Memorial Day. S.B. Morse died in an air crash
in England, Morse Ivey on land at Normandy and Jack Bogan
in the Philippine Sea. (Photo by Mike Haynes)
S.B. Morse died in a plane crash near Cambridge, Morse Ivey in the Normandy invasion and Jack Bogan in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in the Philippine Sea.
On Memorial Day, three white crosses and three American flags backed up the monument, and as we looked around the cemetery, green and adorned with the white flowers of yucca plants from recent rain, we saw scores of other crosses and flags placed by Boy Scouts.
The account of the three cousins is a dramatic and poignant one for our family, but just about every one of the people attending the morning ceremony had an equally heart-rending story of relatives who didn’t come back from war. In a small town, every name of a soldier, sailor or airman from the community can be read aloud, and my cousin Thacker did that Monday in a “Roll Call of the Fallen.”
Hometown graduate Ricky D. Smith, himself a U.S. Army veteran, filled in an attentive audience on the town’s participation from World War I to the recent Middle Eastern conflicts and reminded us of the loss not only of those who died but of the lives they would have lived, the children they would have raised and the ripple effect they would have had on the world.
Emcee L.H. Webb quoted John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
The reminder, “Gentlemen, please remove your hats,” was unnecessary in the middle of cattle country, a place where reverence for presentation of the colors, the national anthem and prayer is pretty much automatic. Pastor Casey Carter cradled a sweat-stained western hat under his arm as he gave the benediction.
The other number that struck me that day, four, represented something less weighty but reminds me of another significant part of life: family.
A family front-yard cornhole tournament on Memorial Day brought
home the meaning of what those killed in war were defending.
(Photo by Mike Haynes)
Memorial Day morphed into a small family reunion for us as 25 or so kinfolk drove out to Dad’s place for hamburgers, a snooker game and a tournament of the currently popular beanbag game, cornhole.
As we carried paper plates from the kitchen to the dining room, the big table filled up and four of the adults wound up at the smaller game table. Somebody noticed that Tex, Jenny, Ricky and I all were lefthanded.
We posed for a picture with our left hands raised, and then we were generous and let my righthanded wife, Kathy, sit with us. It was just a passing, fun moment, but the four lefties stuck in my mind as a reminder of what turned out to be a special day.
We ate birthday cake in honor of both my brother David and his wife Ginger, we watched my brother edge out our uncle Carey Don for the snooker game championship, and we spent a couple of hours in the front yard playing in or watching beanbags navigate the wind toward round holes in plywood.
I wondered what games Texas Panhandle pioneers played on similar days of recreation 100 or more years ago.
Our family gathering included the oldest, my 88-year-old dad Johnny, as competitive as ever whether handling a cue stick, a beanbag or a golf club, and 2-month-old McCrae Lee, now competing for attention with her almost 2-year-old cousin, Dallas David.
We ended the day with a short drive to the family cemetery to visit Mom, gone almost six years. Joyce would have appreciated that we took the time to come, and she would have seen that we hadn’t changed as we made jokes and my sister tossed a golf ball back and forth to one of the kids.
A less-often quoted verse, 1 John 3:16, reads, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
Times at cemeteries, times at the table and times at play can remind us why sacrifices are made and for whom we make them.