The following writing was submitted by me and published locally a few years ago. I like rereading this writing because it reminds me of the strong feelings I had and still feel. In the face of my Father's death this past summer, and the upcoming occasion of Memorial Day, I thought I would send these words out again. I've changed them only slightly since first publication:
The debate continues about the stark white crosses dotting the brilliant green hillside in Lafayette -- a somber and only partial display of the human cost of armed conflict. We would need many more hillsides if we were to erect crosses for all life lost in Iraq. But it’s tough in our culture these days to spend time considering such a tragic reality. We are encouraged so often to do the opposite in ways too numerous to count.
When I see the crosses from the window of my car, I think of my uncle, a soldier during WWII, killed at the tender age of 21. I think of my parents’ military service. My Dad served as a fighter pilot who was shot down and held prisoner in Germany. My Mom served as a pharmacist mate. Both interrupted their college education to don uniform, returning to finish their schooling and marry after the war.
I think of my mother's journey to locate her brother's grave in Holland, 40 years after his death. He was her only sibling, a brother she adored and grieved for all her adult life. Before she died, she was determined to visit the white cross that stood at his grave, honoring his life and sacrifice of it.
I cherish the picture of her standing alone, among thousands of white crosses on a lush green hillside in Holland. A bouquet of brilliant red roses held tightly, her head bowed, and, at her feet, the plain white cross commemorating her brother’s life and his service.
The silent crosses remind me of the pride my family felt when we were presented the American flag in honor of Mom’s service, after she died waging a personal battle against cancer.
I find it somewhat difficult to accept others' politicizing the white crosses on the hillside in Lafayette, but I understand how it churns up debate. There is no honor or truth in avoiding the human or economic cost of war or of casting those discussions or graphic reminders as unpatriotic or disrespectful.
The white crosses on the green hillside are a profound testimony – silent, stark, undeniably real.
What lessons might they teach us?