Recollections of War Losses… —by Jinny Batterson
(I wrote this remembrance at the urging of a friend, who in turn had a friend who helped create a moveable “swords into plowshares” bell tower replica at N.C. State over Memorial Day weekend. You can read more about this effort in an opinion piece originally published in our region’s newspaper. )
Recently we observed Memorial Day, a time set aside for remembering those who gave up life in the service of a cause greater than they were. It is very fitting that we should honor their sacrifices and remember them. The war loss that affected my family most strongly was my Uncle John, my dad’s only brother, who was killed in Europe during the final days of World War II, two and a half years before I was born. Once the war was over, my grandparents had his remains moved and reburied at Arlington National Cemetery, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of taking fresh flowers to Arlington at Memorial Day to put on Uncle John’s grave. Pictures and stories are all we have of what Uncle John was like before he was killed. He left no wife or children behind.
Because of my gender, I was not drafted and sent to Vietnam like my brother-in-law; I did not volunteer and die there much too young like the boyfriend of one of my best high school friends. Vietnam affected lots of people close to my age in lots of different ways. For some, like me, it made us even more distrustful of wars as a way to solve problems. In adulthood, I’ve tried to honor my Uncle John by searching for less harmful ways to deal with conflicts. I’ve reduced my use of non-renewable natural resources to try to lessen the likelihood that conflicts over these resources will again erupt into warfare. I pay closer attention to the natural bounty around me—the sunshine, the rain, a beautiful late spring afternoon when some of us from different backgrounds gathered peaceably to honor those who’d gone before us, and to rededicate ourselves to building better lives for those who will come after.