Memorial Day, Veterans Day and other times of year draw our attention to the topic of the men and women who have served in the military. I had a few things drawing my attention to the real topic of consideration this weekend. Not sure that I can say a short conversation with my cousin Ross who’s currently stationed in Iraq and looking forward to his trip home for a couple of weeks here soon. And it was just a few weeks ago that I had a chance to visit with Charlie, a relative by choice, who recently returned from another tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Waking up late on Monday of a Memorial Day Weekend can be a nice change of pace. Flipping through the TV schedule, I saw a “Band of Brothers” marathon was on and haven’t moved much since flipping that on. The show gripped me intensely when it first aired and it still does. If you don’t know it, rent the DVD box set. The personal stories on the front of this and “The Pacific” totally grab me. It’s the personal stories that resonate and stick with me.
My granddad, who died during my childhood, had served in World War II. He was lucky enough to get a job as a cook and not be in the midst of the intense battles. The images I have of him at this time are totally based on a few photos we have (look how much my grandmom loved him 🙂 ). Those seem to have intermingled with the TV shows and movies of popular culture.
Not being able to hear his stories has made me more keenly aware of the gift of hearing first-person accounts of history. It seems that pairs really well with agriculture and in late February I took a short break during a trade show when I met back up with a farmer from South Alabama I had met several weeks earlier at the Beltwide and saw again at the American Farm Bureau meeting. His name is Mr. Ingram… Tom Ingram and he’s from LA (lower Alabama). Farms some cotton and peanuts and was willing to take time to talk history with me.
I kept thinking about his stories of the Battle of the Bulge (and yes, he has heard all the jokes about how many people fight the weight battle of the bulge). But hearing stories of his fighting in WWII and subsequent trips to Europe, those have stuck with me, as have the stories of his farm.
I still remember him telling me of having gone back to a battlefield and having found the fox hole he dug decades earlier and how much the French, Belgian and others appreciated him and would be sponsoring his visit back this summer. I can’t wait to get an update on the new trip and possible finds — he showed me some German dog tags he had found on a trip in the last few years. Great to hear from him what that is all like.
I hope you have the chance to listen to some first-hand accounts of our history, if nothing else, you can listen to a cotton and peanut farmer from Alabama tell about his experiences on this 10 minute video which I cut and cut and couldn’t cut anymore. Of course a short visit one day turned into more than an hour hearing his story on video the next day! I love Mr. Ingram’s first-hand account and hope you enjoy the reflection on veterans day.