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Memorial Day memories

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By Jim Clark

Editor's Note: This is a column published annually, with some minor changes, by the editor.

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I never knew my Uncle Joe.

Somewhere there's a slide or a picture of him holding me on his lap shortly after I was born, but soon after that photo in early 1944, the sergeant shipped out.

He was not only my uncle, he was my Godfather.

He died in Normandy just one month after D-Day. I found his name on the Web, complete with the plot number in the cemetery in which he is buried.

He didn't live long enough to spend any time with me, which I know he would have loved to do. He certainly didn't live long enough to know that he has a great-nephew named after him. Every time I hear my grandchildren call the current namesake "Uncle Joe," it stirs up some emotion.

Now Memorial Day is upon us, the day when we remember all those from all wars who gave their lives for their country.

When the holiday rolls around and I see people who do remember their loved ones, I know their pain.

But I'm saddened to see that around here Memorial Day isn't celebrated as it used to be in other places. There is a ceremony at the cemetery on Sunday, and it is very moving, but last year it was pretty sparsely attended.

When I was a child, there was a big parade. I remember as a youth baseball player getting into uniform and marching in that parade. I remember my dad, as a World War II veteran and the commander of a church group called the Catholic War Veterans, giving the keynote speech after the parade at ceremonies in the town of Bergenfield, N.J., where we lived.

I even remember part of his talk, where he urged people to take their children to see historic sites, which for us meant places like Valley Forge, Washington's Crossing and West Point. That night at a church service where I was the altar boy, the priest asked me if my dad really took me to those places. I can remember answering with pride, yes, he had.

I wonder how many parents in these days take their children to see places like this, or to any historic places, to help them understand how they got to a point where they have the freedoms they have today.

So on Monday, when many of you will probably have a day off and will be celebrating with families and friends, doing things such as swimming, barbecuing, playing ball, etc., I hope you'll take time to remember what this day is all about.

Many people consider this the kickoff of summer. But for a lot of others, it's just a renewal of the memories of those who paid the ultimate price so that we could be free.

Either way, have a safe holiday, and we'll see you next week.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.