I’m spending Memorial Day in Italy this year, 76 years after my father was stationed here in the Second World War. Somehow it feels oddly right to be here as the world again staggers out of a global conflict, even if this time our enemy is a microscopic one we fight with syringes instead of young soldiers.
I got my second vaccination today, and really thought I’d want to celebrate. But as I walked the peaceful rows of the American Cemetery outside of Florence, I was instead remembering my father’s quiet story of how his war ended 76 years ago.
In all the time in the War there was never a thought of it ending. We didn’t have access to newspapers or radios so we really did not know what was going on. The end was so casual. One of the guys was walking along and said that Germany surrendered…—Tech Sergeant Robert Figel, Radio Operator Gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress Nobody’s Baby
For the whole earth is the sepulcher of famous men; and their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.—Pericles of Athens, (431 BCE) Oration for the Annual Public Funeral of the War Dead at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War