Last Letters Make Memorial Day Meaningful

May 26, 2014 · 0 comments

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Every Memorial Day I can’t help but think about Grandpa Brogan.  My mother’s father was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during World War II.  He volunteered to join the war in October of 1942.  He trained for nearly 20 months before being dropped into France behind enemy lines just prior to the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944.  Though he survived the jump, he was killed by a sniper while trying to take Hill 95 on July 4, 1944.

This holiday weekend I’ve heard a few people suggest that many Americans seem to have lost sight of what Memorial Day is all about.   They say that bar-b-ques, camping trips, ball games, picnics, etc. seem to take over our long weekend without our giving proper respect to those who’ve served our country.  It’s easy to fall into that trap, and I’ve found that I can be as guilty of that as anyone.

Harold and JuneI’m fortunate to have all of the letters that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother during the war, and several of the letters that she wrote to him.  Reading their intimate thoughts and expressions of love to each other helps me remember the great sacrifice they both made.

With that in mind, I’d like to share the last letter that my grandfather wrote before his death.  And then following that letter is the last letter that my grandmother wrote to him before she finally received the telegram that indicated he’d been killed in action.   As you read them and as you put yourself in their place or imagine that this is your family member writing to a loved one, I hope that you’ll get a better sense of what Memorial Day really should mean.

June 26, 1944

Darling June,

            Hello, Sweetheart, it’s me again and thinking of you.  Hope your [sic] all alright.  How’s my little one, both of you?

 It’s funny what men think of so far from home and any kind of comfort.  Here in the fields of France, with hardly any facilities for washing and shaving let alone bathing, fellow’s thoughts are so constantly with home.  The food and bed, the chance to see a movie or dance or any of the common things are a magnificent luxury.  A man who’s lucky enough to get a fresh egg is happy for the rest of the day!  The weather is cool here always, and we dress for it.

A short distance away I can hear follows talking about what they are going to do first, after we return to the states.  Some talk of steaks, roasts, hamburgers (me) and liver and onions, or going on a bender.  Some want bright lights, some a quiet home, some claim they are going to loaf, others to go to work.

Here are almost 2 years in service men become closer than brothers, for you eat, sleep, work, drill, fight, or die together.  It’s a personal loss if one gets wounded or otherwise.  Men have come to me with all kinds of things, personal or otherwise.  I’ve heard so many things.  Some are tragic, some funny.  My buddy Jack, Mother sent him a letter saying she knew he wasn’t in action yet because the papers said only combat men with experience had lead the invasion.  She asked Jack if he could hear the distant sound of gunfire from France.   Jack can’t get over it.  We have been kidding him about it.

Did I tell you the regiment is to receive a unit citation?  Well, we are.  We are also members of the 82nd Airborne Division.  This division saw action in Sicily and Italy.

As for me here, I’m still here and in it.  I’ve had some mighty close shaves, but than if I told you it would sound unbelievable and scare you.  It’s Sunday and I tried to go to mass, but was unable to due to circumstances.  Some of the boys went.  Fully armed, of course.  Sgt. Bill Call said it was held under some bushes and trees.  The priest was a jumper and had a vestment made of a camouflage shirt.

Well, Dear Heart, Love to all and I love you with all my heart.  You’re my inspiration.

Your Loving Husband,

Harold

And here’s the letter from my grandma to him.  He was killed on July 4th and she didn’t receive notice until early September.  So this letter is the last of many she wrote in that two month period when she didn’t hear from him.

September 7, 1944

Dearest Harold,

Here I am again, Honey, with another few lines, provided our little daughter will leave me alone for a while this morning.  I tell her I’m writing to daddy so she brings me your picture and kisses it and wants me to kiss it.  I’ve got her interested in a picture of a baby in a magazine for the moment, which is another thing that interests Sharon a lot besides your pictures.

Every day I look for news from you and of you and feel like I’m on pins and needles until the mailman comes.  It is so funny I don’t hear something more about you.  Just knowing you have been wounded, Honey, and knowing nothing more makes me feel so worried and upset.  Time seems to pass so terribly slow as I wait from day to day.  I’m glad for one thing though, my Darling, that they did send me an address to write to you by.  I hope you will get our letters soon now for I believe I have some idea of how much mail means to you.

I hope and pray above anything else that I will get to see you soon.  There is so much I want to tell you when I do see you again, how much I love you (if there are words that could ever express the depth of my love you), how I’ve longed for you and so many other things.

Oh, my Darling, how my arms ache to hold you close.  I long so to feel your lips pressed against mine and to feel your nearness again.  Oh, but I do so hope I won’t have to wait much longer for I love you so dearly, Harold Darling.

Well, Dear Heart, I will sign off for this time.  So hoping I hear from you soon, I’ll close with all my love to you and may God bless you.

Your loving wife,

June

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