Family Stories… Dear Uncle Leroy
Dear Uncle Leroy:
On this Memorial Day (May 27, 2018) I’m writing to “Thank You” for your service during WWII, where at the young age of 19, you gave your life for this great country of the United States. A life that should not have been lost to parents Edgar and Ola McKinley… their one and “only” son and “only” brother to my mother Helen Rebecca McKinley.
What would life have held for you if you had returned home safely from the war? You often wrote home in your letters of how you looked forward to helping your father plow the fields once again when you came home. Funny how often the very thing you once disliked doing, became the very thing you dreamed of coming home and once doing again. I’m sure your letters gave grandmamma and granddaddy much comfort as they read your words… words of how you dreamed of home and helping them on the farm. It seems the young boy they saw off on the train had grown quickly into a man, now thinking of his parents… while he himself is surrounded daily by war! Funny how being away from home somehow changes a person… you have seemingly realized that life at home wasn’t so bad after all… as you sat around with the guys talking about home.
You wrote of no sadness while being surrounded by the cold, snow and war… writing often about home and how you should have done more for your parents in growing up. Your main chore had been the evening milking of the dairy cows… while often making your father angry when you squirted milk to the waiting mouth of Clark Gabel… your large golden kitty who perched himself in just the right spot… waiting for a drink. Your father always yelled… “that cat gets more milk than what goes in the pail.“
Life would have been so much different for everyone if you had returned… as you probably would have taken over the running of granddaddy’s farm, especially after he became sick. Granddaddy so loved that farm and I know it pained him when he had to leave it to come live with us… it wasn’t where he wanted to be. Possibly grandmama wouldn’t have shut her mind off… like she did when she learned of your death, and my mother wouldn’t have grown up an only child, she would have had her older brother to lean on.. and still calling her “sis.”
Mama has always said that while you were grandmama’s favorite… she was her daddy’s favorite. I’m sure you both were loved the same, but somehow one always gets along better with one parent than the other. Mama didn’t like hanging around under her mother so much… as she’d put her to work in the house… and she so hated that. She enjoyed being outside with her father… never asking her to do any work… willing to listen to her all day as she looked at the Sears and Roebuck catalog… talking about all the pretty dresses, of which he’d always reply, “yes, that’s nice.” If she tried to show her mother the pretty dresses, she only cried!
Those letters you wrote home to your mother, my grandmother… she not only read them once, she read them over and over to herself and carried them in the pockets of her apron,.. never wanting anyone to hold them. They meant more to her than you could ever know… they were her lifeline to you, her only son… and on that day when the news came… she shut herself off to the world, lost forever to her husband and daughter and me, her only grandchild. I only knew her in body, never in mind… never to fully have the grandmother and grandchild relationship… she slowly slipped away from us… slipping into another world that took her pain away.
If only you had come home Uncle Leroy… how things would have changed, but things did change in America for you gave your life to make our country a better place… and although I do think of you often, so wishing I could have had conversations with you and heard your stories. On Memorial Day, I always say a special prayer for you, knowing you are once again somewhere on the farm plowing with granddaddy and grandmama is in the kitchen baking your favorite jam cake!
Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, is a federal holiday for remembering those who died while serving in the armed forces; a holiday currently observed on the last Monday in May. The practice of decorating soldier’s graves with flowers began even before the Civil War, but today the graves of those who lost their lives during the war are decorated with small flags.
While you celebrate Memorial Day with friends and family this year, take a few minutes to think of the true meaning of the day… a day to honor those who fought for the freedom of the United States… so you may live free!
Fatalities from U.S. Wars and Conflicts
|American Revolution (1775-1783)||4,435|
|War of 1812 (1812-1815)||2,260|
|Mexican War (1846-1848)||13,283|
|Civil War (1861-1865)||620,000|
|Spanish-American War (1898-1902)||385|
|World War I (1917-1918)||116,516|
|World War II (1941-1945)||405,399|
|Korean War (1950-1953)||36,574|
|Vietnam War (1964-1975)||58,220|
|Gulf War (1990-1991)||383|
|Afghanistan War (2001-present)||2,381|
|Iraq War (2003-2012)||4,500|
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© 2017, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved