Dear Tucci Trooper,
To all our American backers. I hope this Memorial Day weekend brings you beautiful spring weather and time well spent with family and friends. I too look forward to taking some time off, doing yard work, seeing friends, (hopefully seeing “Top Gun 2”) and marching in our local parade. I take great pride in Memorial Day weekend and try to do my best to honor the reason for the holiday and to keep the memories alive of our valiant military men and women who have fallen in combat.
I have taken soil from many battlefields in my lifetime. From Waterloo in Belgium to dropzone of Holland, and the Vosges Mountains and Normandy beaches of France. Stateside, I have visited the wooded hills of Gettysburg and amber prairie of The Little Big Horn, but most importantly, I have visited the fields of white marble dotted with thousands crosses, crescents and Stars of David. Beneath these glistening markers are the remains of so many fallen young men and women. Many of whom, like the Japanese-Americans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Unit had traveled half a world away to fight for another’s freedom while their own families were incarcerated behind barbed wire back home.
Is it fair? Never? Is it worth it? That is probably the hardest question man has ever asked. War truly is the worst of humanity, but when there are evil men in the world, who do monstrous things, good men must uproot their lives and selflessly rise to stop them.
One such man, I’d like to believe was my great, great uncle, Pvt. Thomas Henry Elliott, who like many men of his generation went to war and never came home.
I learned of him through Ancestry.com as there he stands in my family tree, eternally young. My uncle was an infantryman (as I would become myself 74 years later), but he did not fight for the United States of America. No, my uncle was a British soldier who fought the Germans as a “Tommy” in the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers. According to Ancestry, here he is leading a squad of men at the front. Even though he was just a Private, at 32 years, he was older than most. It’s easy to see how an older man, would take the young soldiers (some as young as 17) under his wing and act more like a father than a brother to them.
For those who have seen the documentaries or films such as “1917”, you can get a small sense of the carnage and slaughter that was the Western Front of “The Great War.” An muddy, disgusting world of pain and death that so many, many young men were forced to go “over the top” and through the gates of hell known appropriately as “No man’s land.”
Before this week, my uncle was really nothing more that a mere photograph on an internet website.
I had mentioned my uncle to a wonderful friend, Ayse. Many of you know Ayse from her wonderful comics, Charlie’s London . Ayse and her amazing husband Yan, were visiting France to pay their respects for Ayse’s Great, Great Grandfather who too was killed in “The Great War”. I had given Ayse my uncle’s name and she was able to actually find his burial sight. After visiting Ayse’s grandfather’s grave, she and Yan took a ride to the Department du Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais Cemetery and found my uncle’s grave.
They had purchased a cross and wrote a note that his sacrifice will never be forgotten by his American cousin. Words can never, ever express my appreciation to Ayse and Yan for doing something so noble, so loving to a man they’ve never met in person, but that is just the kind of people they are. The kind of people who hold honor and sacrifice atop the pedestal as we all should.
Memorial Day is not a day to celebrate. It is not a day for gift-giving, but my dear friends gave me an amazing gift that will be cherished for the rest of my days.
The gift of remembrance.
So thank you, Ayse and Yan and thank you to all those who gave their Tomorrow’s so we could have our Today.
My uncle was killed in action, 12 August 1918, France and Flanders. I was born some 48 years later the day after.
He will be eternally young, and he will never be forgotten.
27 May 2022