Veterans sacrificed so that others would not have to

Published 7:50 am Saturday, May 26, 2018

Great-Uncle John loved Memorial Day.

He planned for it like children plan for Christmas. A couple weeks beforehand, he would have my baby sisters start selling paper poppy flowers outside the grocery store in Ironton to raise money for the VFW.

He practiced marching with his veteran friends. He could hardly sleep the night before the annual event that honored what he and so many others had experienced.

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He was fiercely patriotic. Uncle John was a WWII veteran. On the day of the parade, he and fellow veterans would march in a straight line, serious expressions on their faces, eyes looking into the distance, with rifles proudly propped on their shoulders.

He repeated this ceremony for decades after the war. And I would watch as his steps got shorter and his balance became feebler.

I couldn’t understand his passion for Memorial Day until I was much older. I remember many times throughout the years that Uncle John would come to Granny’s house more than a bit tipsy.

He was a life-long bachelor and lived in his parents’ house with his life-long spinster sister.

This sister did not approve of Uncle John’s drinking. But on days that life was just too hard, he would give in to his vice and, rather than going to his home to sleep it off, he would end up at Granny’s house.

There, he would sit in the soft chair behind the coal stove and silently cry for hours. Granny would say, “Don’t mess with Uncle John. Keep the noise down. He’s seen things a body ought never have to see in his lifetime.”

Even today, I cannot pass the opportunity to buy a paper poppy blossom. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would tell Uncle John how sorry I am that he had to endure the trauma of combat.

I would say that I wish I could take away the painful, horror filled memories he stored in his heart until the day he died. I would tell him that I am truly grateful for what he suffered, so that I would not have to endure the same.

In an age where often the individual want supersedes what is best for the community, it’s hard to imagine what our military brothers and sisters suffer without yielding.

I honor Uncle John’s silent tears shed as he sat in Granny’s soft chair. I honor the tears of every veteran who has served our country and continue to carry the wounds of the heart.


Nora Stanger, a Lawrence County native, is an author, motivational speaker and works as the school counselor for Miami Valley Christian Academy in Cincinnati.