Memorial Day is set aside for reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice offered by those who died while serving their country. Having not done so, it is nearly impossible to understand what it means to face the horrors of battle. To cast off instinctual self preservation, leading from the front in order to proclaim a way of life and keep the wolf from the door. In awe, we reflect and are grateful.
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”Illustrated London News, Jan. 14, 1911
A World War II Aviation Treasure
Just yesterday, on the eve of Memorial Day, I was searching through an archive of my digital pictures. I stumbled upon this bit of audio, misplaced deep in the folder tree of one of my hard drives. It is a short interview with Thomas ‘Gene’ Rogers, a P-51 crew chief during WWII. As I played the audio back, I remembered his kindness and how willing he was to share his experiences. A hundred questions I might have asked overtook my mind. However, that opportunity was entombed in the book of time. The possibilities therein, stymied ad infinitum.
A Moment of Clarity
Six years had past since I last heard the this man speak. A moment of sadness came over me. By now, Mr. Rogers had probably passed away, I thought. A brief internet search confirmed this. What followed was flood of conflicting emotions. I reflected, what I would give to have one more conversation with him. When I spoke with him that day, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of our conversation, the sharing of his humanity with me. For a moment I had a strong yet unrequited impulse to confirm to him my appreciation. Is this moment of clarity retroactively sufficient, I thought? To whom, for whom, I do not know. Somehow it seems to matter.
Time for Understanding
In the end, I am honored for the opportunity to hear some of his story and memorialize his experience in a very small way. I wish I had asked to see his other pictures and hear more of his experience. Furthermore, there is a stinging reflective realization of the importance of quiet moments. They allow the full scope of these things to appropriately unfold inside us. Somehow it seems to matter.
Today, I discovered a lost aviation treasure on the eve of Memorial Day. Although it is a thing of the past about other things of the past, within are lessons which inform the future.
We pause, reflect, remember — and try to understand.