Two of my uncles served in the United States Navy during World War II - Patillo Ainsworth Finlayson and James Murdoch Finlayson. They survived the war and lived to be old bachelors. Murdoch passed away in June of 2008 and Pat died April 2011.
It was a few years after Murdoch's death, while visiting in Columbia, Uncle Pat told me something before we retired for the evening. I was headed to his guest room when he said that he deeply appreciated my journaling/blogging about his and Murdoch's wartime experiences. He said something to the affect that having never married, having never had children, that he did not want to be forgotten. Pat told me that it meant a great deal that their service be documented and not forgotten.
The next day my brother and I took Aunt Jennie Llew and Uncle Pat to The Lizard's Thicket - their favorite place to eat. Pat was the first at the table and I sat across from him. I don't know where Brook and Jennie Llew were at the moment - but Pat and I were at the table for a few minutes a lone.
Pat put down his menu and told me something that had recently happened while in the sitting area at Still Hopes Retirement Community. He told me that a group of high school students were visiting the community ~ mingling with the old residents. Pat said that a young man approached him and asked if he had served in the military. Pat told the boy that he served during World War II in the United States Navy. I don't know if Pat told him that he was part of the Amphibious Landing Force with three campaigns under his belt that included the Normandy Invasion.
Pat's eyes began to well. I leaned forward to hear what he was saying through the noise of the restaurant clatter and chatter.
He said, this young man then reached out his hand to shake his hand and said "Thank you for your service sire." At first I didn't understand why he seemed so emotional about the incident encounter. I kept eye contact with Uncle Pat. He paused and then raised his hands from the table and said, "I didn't respond. He caught me by surprise...no one had ever thanked me for that." He was taken off guard a boys gratitude and couldn't respond. The moment left him speechless.
Then a small wave hit me from his side of table. I felt a little pang guilt for having never personally thanked him before that moment. The dear old veteran lived into 90's with only a young stranger to thank him for his sacrifice.
My eyes welled too upon my realization of the impact it had had on him. The conversation changed as the rest of the party seated themselves around the table. Pat's head ducked behind his menu and I followed suit.
My eyes well up each veterans day since. My eyes well as I write this memory. Pat said he didn't want to be forgotten. He didn't want Murdoch to be forgotten - their service. It meant something to him that we remember, to not be forgotten.
There are men and women around us who have served. I believe each and every veteran needs to hear it from our own lips, whether we be family, friends or the stranger.