As far as I know, I’ve never known anyone who died in combat, though I know combat veterans, and at least one relative who died while serving in the armed forces, though not in combat. So on Memorial Day I think of those who died for our country and for freedom, but it is an abstraction as I don’t know any of them or their individual stories.
I have always been moved by such stories, though, when I have read books or articles about them. I’ve probably read more fictional stories of war than non-fiction, but I imagine the fictional stories are generally true-to-life in their depiction of soldiers’ loyalty to their unit and their country, and their heroism as they fight and live or die.
One story that I have always found particularly moving is “The Ballad of Rodger Young.” We learned this song in 7th grade music class, and I usually had a lump in my throat by the time I reached the final verse. I have no idea whether it is based on the actual experience of some young infantryman, but I’m sure there are many who gave up their lives in similar circumstances.
My thanks to those who have fought for this country, whether they have died for it or not.