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Our hero dead

Posted by Richard on May 28, 2007

On May 30, 2005, when this blog was just seven weeks old, I posted "What I did for Memorial Day":

I talked with my dad this weekend. That's not unusual; I call him or he calls me most weekends. He's 89, so there's no telling how many more conversations we'll have.

He wasn't a very good father — occasionally a bit abusive and otherwise always quite distant. For most of my adult life, I returned the favor by being distant (both physically and emotionally) myself. But with age came first a "water under the bridge" attitude, then forgiveness, and eventually love.

My dad was a career Army officer who served in both WWII and Korea. This weekend — for the first time — I said something to him that I should have said many times.

I thanked him for his service.

We both got pretty choked up. It felt real good.

My dad passed away last August. I'm so very glad that I thanked him while he was still alive. I wish I could visit his grave this Memorial Day and thank him again. He's in the veteran's section of Highland Memorial Gardens in Knoxville. I hope someone has put up flags, like they do in Arlington.

Last year, I posted Edgar Guest's moving poem and Isaac Wankerl's wonderful photo of Arlington. I can't improve on those, so here they are again. 

Please take a moment today to remember those who died "that liberty shall live," as Guest put it. And if you have friends or relatives — or maybe an elderly neighbor down the street — who are veterans, thank them now. Don't wait until they have a marker over their head. The WWII veterans in particular are rapidly dwindling in number, and they really did fight so that "free men wear no tyrant's chain."

Memorial Day

by Edgar A. Guest (1881-1959)

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.

Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.


"Flags In" for Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetary. Photo from Isaac Wankerl (
The grave of his father, Maj. Max W. Wankerl, is in the foreground.
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