The Name in the Stone [ 11/11/14 ]

A beautiful and very moving post.

Gerard would be proud.

Posted by Fausta at May 26, 2006 8:59 AM

The orininal posting of this was the first of your entries I read, linked to it by Glenn Reynolds.

I am of your generation, and was a student at San Francisco State when you were at Berkeley.

Every year I read this, my reaction is the same. It is quite wonderful.

I look forward to reading it next year.

Posted by Chip at May 26, 2006 10:15 AM

While poking around in your archives a couple of days ago, I randomly hit May, 2003 without really thinking that Memorial day was right around the corner. The picture of the eagle between stone monuments was striking so I read, and was moved to remembering that indeed, Memorial day is here and deserves some quiet contemplation.

My mood of reflection was shaken somewhat upon recieving an email from my mother linking to a Sheehanesque rant by a gold star mother hysterically blaming her sons death in Iraq on all the usual leftist suspects. Bush, Republicans, Haliburton, big oil, yada, yada, yada.

In the comments on your post on Bad Thoughts, I touched briefly on my mothers gradual tranformation from JFK Democrat to a wearer of the tin foil hat upon our move to Seattle in 1967. It was interesting to me that you found the comment "startling" as it seemed while I was hitting the keys just a hopefully mildly amusing anecdote of street fair moonbattery and growing up in the sixties.

Looking at my comment again I suppose it is a bit startling. Startling in how my mother, a good caring gentle woman, who instilled in me all of the classically liberal values that made your essay "The Name In The Stone" so moving to me, could be equally as moved by an essay referring to our soldiers, on Memorial Day, as mercenaries for Bushco. How is it that good people, on this day, would preach tolerance for those who would destroy us and reserve the harshest judgement for those who have sacrificed everything to protect us?
I just don't get it.

Posted by anybodyinpoulsbo at May 26, 2006 10:47 AM

Thank you. In some ways the "blogosphere" cheapens words, because there are now so many of them. That was an article that should have been published nationally: Harpers or Atlantic or even The New Yorker. It is my great good fortune to have found it anyway.

Posted by Gordon at May 26, 2006 12:02 PM

There's no way to repay the debt. Perhaps just try to live the words in bold below, spoken over the body a recently fallen hero:

"Marine Cpl. Stephen R. Bixler was carried last week from his family church in Suffield, Connecticut, en route to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery.

"His platoon commander, 1st Lt. Nicholas Lodestro, says Stephen was 'loyal, knowledgeable and dedicated. He was a warrior I felt comfortable to serve with. He was the man in front protecting us. He was a dedicated, unselfish, charismatic warrior.'"

"His battalion commander, Lt. Col. James Bright, said of this young Marine, 'He died fearlessly leading and willingly sacrificing his own safety for those around him.'"

"The closing words of Stephen's pastor, Rev. Michael Dolan, at gravesite should be heralded from shore to shore:

"'Do not squander the time given to you by God or the freedom preserved by this Marine's life.'"

Posted by Gagdad Bob at May 26, 2006 12:53 PM

How old was Justine at the time? I suspect her attitude had a lot to do with her age at the time, plus the context of the experience insofar as she was raised in a different world than you were.

Posted by Alan Kellogg at May 26, 2006 1:01 PM

Thanks for re-posting this article. I hadn't had the privilege of reading it before. Once again you lay it all on the line for us, which is why I peruse your site so often.

I did have the privilege of being at that monument in Battery Park. The monument truly moved me. The Manhattanites who "never get the chance" to see it are the one's we have to worry about.

I once brought my kids to Arlington National Cemetery. I wanted them to experience the place and I also wanted to visit the grave site of a high school friend of mine. He had been a Marine named Stephen Crowley who was killed in 1979 defending our embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. It had been attacked during the time our embassy in Tehran was seized by our enemies, the Islamo-fascists. The Islamos have been killing us for a while now. There must be a way the left can finger Bush for that day, too!

I got quite pissed off at my kids when they both acted as though I was torturing them by making them be there. I was quite disappointed. Thank God I can tell you "the rest of the story"... my son served two years active duty and my daughter served in combat in Iraq before being accepted to West Point where she is just finishing up her plebe (freshman)year. They are both patriots and I'm very proud of them.

Gerard, I'm sorry you never got to meet your namesake. I can tell you that his nephew has matured into a patriot whom I'm glad to call a fellow American. Perhaps we Americans will once again be able to bring liberty to a place that desperately needs it, even without the help from our liberal friends.

Have a safe Memorial Day weekend, and if you get the chance remember Marine Lance Corporal Steven Crowley.

The day he was killed is described in the following Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A15332-2004Nov26?language=printer

Posted by Jim at May 26, 2006 7:15 PM

That was amazing...thank you for writing it!

Posted by rc at May 26, 2006 8:27 PM

I've read this post before but it touches me each time very deeply. My USMC dad served on Iwo, at Korea, on Okinawa, in Viet Nam. I thought it was cool to protest in the 60's. How I cringe now at how ignorant I was. Happily I think Dad understands I was silly and young and after Saving Private Ryan we had lots of talks about his war experiences I cherish. This summer I am studying in Europe and will make a short trip to Bayeux in Normandy to tour the landing beaches-and he is tickled to death. Which is, of course, why I am doing it.

Posted by teri at May 26, 2006 8:32 PM

Gerard,

There was a time during the 1980’s and 1990's when business frequently brought me to D.C. I would invariably, and at times not of my own free will, take a walk down Constitution Avenue and visit the “Wall”. Always the same cold black granite. Always the visitors, keepers of the memories, with fingers brushing tenderly across a name. A prayer here, a sob there. A name out of reach to many. All ages, all colors…all somber in their thoughts. A whispered conversation here or there. The comfort of an arm over a shoulder. A knowing empathetic pat. The locations of the inscriptions I visited were memorized. So much life, so many memories reduced to inscriptions on a cold black granite wall. And my fingers ask….What’s happening Billie? Hey Den…..Are there G.T.O.’s in heaven? Do you remember the time, “Kats”? And on and on. We were much, much more than friends and brothers. And I always cry.

RR

Posted by RunningRoach at May 27, 2006 11:28 AM

Thank you for this beautiful post. I came here via One for the Road, Richmond. Thank you to Gerard the first. And your family.

Posted by Kim at May 27, 2006 3:02 PM

Thank you for sharing, Sir.
Your words have deeply moved me, as have the comments of my fellow patriots.
This Memorial Day I'm reminded of a good friend, LCDR Kelvin Fujimo, a Navy dentist, who died from AIDS, contracted from a patient he was helping.
He continued to work on AIDS patients, after he was medically retired from the Navy, often working 12 hour days, until he could no longer work, and was hospitalized.
He died serving his country and doing what he loved; helping people.

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at May 28, 2006 3:58 AM

Gerard, I've read this a few times. To me it expresses reverence to the memory of all our fallen warriors, and their families. And each time I have trouble seeing the screen by the time I'm finished.

Posted by Maggie45 at May 28, 2006 7:55 PM

This is my first time reading your post,and it just warmed my heart,and it was a reminder of what our predecessors did for us,but,sadly this generation is so weak we are doing the very oppositeMy dad was a Nam vet and I had planned to follow in his footsteps,but,sadly,ended up with a health issue!Boy,and it makes me respect what my father and the men he fought with were trying to do,and the left undermined that and actually their stupidity,and wimpyness is what has gotten us in this mess now,so I don't care to here anything wimps have to say,I'd rather listen to the grownups such as yourself!

Posted by Lisa Gilliam at May 28, 2006 10:09 PM

Of all your good essays, this is my favorite.

I was visiting NYC a couple of summers back with my daughter who is going to graduate school in NY. We had just come out of the Staten Island Ferry building going to see if we could get to the Statue of Liberty, when I saw the eagle in the distance and knew immediately what I was seeing. I tried to find your uncle's name but didn't know where to look.

I had two uncles in WWII, both of whom survived. When visiting one of them as a child in the early fifties, I was intrigued by his homemade ashtray made out of the base of a 3 or 4 inch shell casing. While talking with him about it, I noticed an ugly piece of distorted metal about 2" long, 1" wide, and 0.5" deep. It was curved, heavy with jagged edges, with striations & cracks in the surface. I asked him what it was and where he had got it.

He told me it was a piece of shrapnel and that he had gotten it off the deck of a ship during the war. He then went on to explain that he was an electrician's mate in the Navy and was stationed for a time at a port somewhere in North Africa fixing ships. He was often in the bowels of a ship repairing damage and could hear the sounds of bombs exploding transmitted through the water. No one dared go on deck because so much debris from the anti-aircraft fire was pattering down. He said it sounded like a steady rain clanging on the deck above.

This fragment was a piece he had later recovered.

As I grew older, I came to appreciate the fear that these men must have experienced. To be working below the waterline of a ship in an enclosed space and to hear the sounds of explosions and know that at any moment the ship you were on might be hit! Yet he and thousands like him "soldiered" on, doing what had to be done.

I have never been similarly tested and I can only hope that I could rise to the occasion as they did.

We owe them, and the men of every generation who protected this country, a debt we can only repay by being willing to make a similar sacrifice.

Posted by Phil B at May 29, 2006 7:07 AM

Thank you for this Memorial day remembrance. So much was given by those who have gone before us - we need to remember. My Dad was in WW1 and my brother in WW2. Some paid such a dear price and we take so much for granted. Thank you for reminding me of the cost of freedom.
Bless you this Memorial Day.
Dick

Posted by Richard Sherman at May 29, 2006 10:08 AM

I think I've seen this everytime since you first posted it.

It does not fail to move me every time I read it.

Posted by Eric Blair at May 30, 2006 5:28 AM

It's up to each of us to remember your uncle, and everyone like him, and do our best to be worthy of what they've given. Thank you Gerard

Posted by Chuck Quackenbush at May 30, 2006 9:18 AM

wow, thank you for sharing that story.

Posted by Barnabus at June 4, 2006 3:28 PM

Excellent post. Thank you for sharing something so personal and poignant.

Posted by physics geek at June 7, 2006 8:41 AM

Thank you for posting this personal story.

Posted by The Fastest Squirrel at June 9, 2006 2:21 PM

Quite apart from the content of your recollection, while the image of the engraved name is a bit soft, to my knowledge there never was any rank "GN" in the US military. Look carefully again, and you'll see that it says "CPL", for corporal.

Also, no need for gratuitous cracks about UC Berkeley. I was a grunt in VN and afterwards I went there on the GI Bill and was always treated quite respectfully...

Posted by cultivate at May 26, 2007 9:58 PM

Thank you for that post.
It reminds all of us who had the good
grace of growing up during the long peace.
Sadly though, it made us assume we were at
last safe and all war was possible to avoid.
How sad, silly, and stupid of us all.
And now here we are facing a terrible and
persistant foe who means to destroy our
very way of life.
The price to be paid is very terrible, and
many are not capable of facing that fact.

Posted by Maggie at May 27, 2007 9:31 PM

Thank you for such a wonderful essay. I look forward to, and make a point of, reading it every Memorial Day. I also encourage friends, relatives, everyone I can, to read it.

Posted by Paul at May 28, 2007 5:36 AM

I wish to have my name in the comments on the post about the stone with the name of the uncle in the war for the freedom of the world at a time when to die during battle in heroic ways under God for liberty and justice resulted in deep appreciation from all people in those days.

With sincere appreciation.

Posted by Webutante at May 28, 2007 6:15 PM

It may be that the error of George Bush was not in going to war; it was in attacking the wrong target, and then not attacking vigorously enough.

Saddam Hussein was indeed a monster, but not one that threatened the West; in fact he suppressed Al Qaeda, very savagely indeed. The real culprit was Saudi Arabia, with some help from Iran, and still is.

What should have been done? Simple. Secure the Saudi oilfields and destroy everything else, especially in Mecca, so that not one stone stood atop another - destroy every factory, power plant, school, college, water treatment plant and everything else required for a modern society. At the same time, freeze all Saudi assets permanently. And then see how they like living in the Dark Ages they hark back to.

But it wasn't done, and a steady trickle (by WWII standards) of American and British blood and a cataract of our money continues to be soaked up by the sands of Iraq. Iraq isn't worth the life of one Allied soldier.

Posted by Fletcher Christian at June 2, 2007 6:03 AM

My husband did his residency in radiology at Fitzsimons Army Hospital in Denver. After medical school his choice had been made clear: take an Army medical residency or risk being drafted and sent to Vietnam.

We were young. It was 1969. We were clueless idiots.
When he walked to the hospital early in the morning he grumbled that he had to stand and salute in a snowstorm when the Star Spangled Banner was played over speakers around post - no matter that he was no where in sight of the flag pole. An officer scolded him when he didn't.

We actually put a peace sign decal on our post housing door and at Christmas time placed a wreath around it and a shone a flood light on it.

General Weir's driveway intersected the road right in front of our door. We were so pleased with ourselves, knowing that he had to see it as he left his home in the morning. Oh, yes. We were so brave, so enlightened.

Looking back, we both cringe at our callow stupidity and are filled with regret.

How does one make amends? You do it every day with American Digest. We're still struggling, but hope that our appreciation for and our love of this great country is manifest in the way we live our lives.

Posted by Cathy Wilson at May 24, 2008 5:22 AM

Oh, yes. This piece about your uncle is beautiful. What a credit you are to his name.

Posted by Cathy Wilson at May 24, 2008 5:26 AM

It breaks my heart that your family gave you the name of a man so beloved, then denied you the name all the same. Wouldn't the clean white scar of a new Gerard been better than an old wound that never healed? I rejoice for the Gerard that was, and for the Gerard that is. Thank you.

Posted by Deborah at May 24, 2008 4:51 PM

Thankfully, most of us learn the errors of our ways and gain wisdom as we progress through life. In other words as we grow up. Some people take longer than others and some just never do.

Your insightful personal essays are very thought provoking and a joy to read.

Posted by bobham at May 28, 2008 1:44 PM

"And because I was a very selfish and stupid young man, ..."

I must disagree that you were a stupid young man. You can't fix stupid, you were ignorant, rather. Your grandparents started you on the road to fixing that. It is to your credit that you've continued on that journey.

Thank you for a story that is moving not just for the sacrifice made by your uncle but also for the honesty you showed in telling your part of it. Both of you have courage.

Posted by Retread at November 11, 2008 7:37 AM

I'm so glad you posted this tribute again.

So interesting, Gerard.

Two days ago I uploaded a picture of my father to the National WWII Memorial Registry.

Robert Leighton Strong from Loudonville, Ohio.

I scanned a picture that mother has kept at her bedside since he left in '43 to prepare for his eventual landing on Omaha beach.

Looking at his folded hands I could weep. I never saw those hands in serene repose again until ALS stilled them.

Don't you resemble your uncle physically? I remember the pix of you as you announced your summer sabbatical.


Posted by Cathy at November 11, 2008 8:03 AM

I resemble him only generally, but my middle brother does look like him.

Posted by vanderleun at November 11, 2008 9:38 AM

Hi, Gerard

Last summer I was at the college and in a glassed-in poster area saw the name Van der Leun. I tiptoed over to see what it was about, but the man's name was Ronald. He was going to give a travelogue lecture.

I didn't go over.

Margaret

Posted by Margaret Dickson at November 11, 2008 9:40 AM

Gerard,

Thank you again for your beautiful prose, this time about a subject very close to my heart. You honor your uncle; you honor my father.

And thanks to all the posters for their memories, and the respect shown to these men and women, many of whom were only known to us through photographs.

Never forget.

Posted by Rob De Witt at November 11, 2008 10:45 AM

Thanks for re-posting this item. It's a classic. If the newspaper business weren't so screwed up you would have received an offer to reprint it.

Posted by pst314 at November 11, 2008 11:13 AM

Gerard,

Please feel free to delete this, as I don't mean to hog this thread.

I find that I've been unable to stop thinking about your wonderful essay today, while I've been driving down to Berkeley to visit my doctor. I'd like to add this:

My father was born in 1917, and was orphaned by age 2. His brothers and sisters were country people, and had to give him up to neighbors to be raised when his father left them. At age 19 he started working for Woolworth's as a window dresser, and eventually became a manager. He married my mother (who was also fatherless due to her father's death in 1928) in 1940, and they had a daughter in 1941.

He was drafted at age 26 in 1944; I have found one letter from him that expresses his hopes for the future. His response to going to war was to have another child, me. He never came back, and my poor mother, who had been badly mistreated as a child, never recovered. I was born 5 months later. My mother's mother, who didn't like him, moved in soon thereafter.

Your essay brought back to me all the memories of my childhood, long and gloomy winters in small dark houses filled with sad, angry women, and wondering about the photos of this sweet smiling man in uniform. I was never allowed to ask any questions, and finally began to find out about him and his life when I was 50, and found some photos and the letter in my mother's last apartment after she died.

No one remembers him but me. Today is one of the days I fly the flag in his memory.

Pvt. Robert D. De Witt, KIA November 29, 1944

Thanks, Dad

Posted by Rob De Witt at November 11, 2008 3:59 PM

Thanks, Gerard.

I was introduced to America as a child in the mid-sixties by a Peace Corp volunteer in what is now Bangladesh. My parents re-located there after the terrible mess of partition of India in 1947. In 1972 I was able to escape the aftermath of a genocidal war that broke Pakistan apart, return to my grandparents' home in Calcutta and from there come to North America. In 1973-74 I spent time in San Francisco with an American family friend, and unable to remain in America for reasons of not being able to get landed papers I came to Canada where I had members of my extended family settled.

I always longed to find my way back to the U.S., but others things got in the way. I have always remembered the Peace Corp volunteer whom we called Bob "bhaiya" meaning brother Bob. It took me a long time to come to an understanding of America though I devoured Hemingway and Whitman, and as a young adult grew up reading everything Pearl S. Buck wrote. I have travelled across America by road, and regularly visit friends in various American cities when I can make time. But it took 9/11 for me to fully comprehend the greatness of America; this is ironic but maybe fitting. I hope this observation of mine does not cause grief to your readers. I say this out of immense affection for America and Americans. It is perhaps out of the experience of some catastrophic event that the true inward reality of a person, a people, a country gets to be fully comprehended.

I wanted to say the above, I hope I have not taken too much space. This is Memorial Day, and I was making my usual visit to your site. I had not read your essay about your uncle until now. You have been immensely instrumental in making me understand America, and to love Americans irrespective of their foibles. This is why I read you regularly. For the insights and education you have given me, I thank you. God bless.

Salim

Posted by Salim Mansur at May 24, 2009 2:24 PM

Thanks, Gerard.

I was introduced to America as a child in the mid-sixties by a Peace Corp volunteer in what is now Bangladesh. My parents re-located there after the terrible mess of partition of India in 1947. In 1972 I was able to escape the aftermath of a genocidal war that broke Pakistan apart, return to my grandparents' home in Calcutta and from there come to North America. In 1973-74 I spent time in San Francisco with an American family friend, and unable to remain in America for reasons of not being able to get landed papers I came to Canada where I had members of my extended family settled.

I always longed to find my way back to the U.S., but others things got in the way. I have always remembered the Peace Corp volunteer whom we called Bob "bhaiya" meaning brother Bob. It took me a long time to come to an understanding of America though I devoured Hemingway and Whitman, and as a young adult grew up reading everything Pearl S. Buck wrote. I have travelled across America by road, and regularly visit friends in various American cities when I can make time. But it took 9/11 for me to fully comprehend the greatness of America; this is ironic but maybe fitting. I hope this observation of mine does not cause grief to your readers. I say this out of immense affection for America and Americans. It is perhaps out of the experience of some catastrophic event that the true inward reality of a person, a people, a country gets to be fully comprehended.

I wanted to say the above, I hope I have not taken too much space. This is Memorial Day, and I was making my usual visit to your site. I had not read your essay about your uncle until now. You have been immensely instrumental in making me understand America, and to love Americans irrespective of their foibles. This is why I read you regularly. For the insights and education you have given me, I thank you. God bless.

Salim

Posted by Salim Mansur at May 24, 2009 2:24 PM

Thank you Salim. And thanks for all your work making the deeper meanings of the Koran visible.

Posted by vanderleun at May 24, 2009 2:34 PM

To Rob De Witt:

I will share your story with my mother who is sitting here with me tonight. Tomorrow we will visit my dad's grave. He survived Omaha Beach and the European theater.

We owe so much to the young men like your father and Gerard's uncle who didn't make it home to their waiting families.

I'm wishing you a peaceful heart and sending a hug from flag-festooned Ohio on this Memorial Day weekend.


Posted by Cathy at May 24, 2009 8:24 PM

Thank you for a moving story. I was born around the time you were at Berkeley, and not far from it. It has taken me these many years to have a more substantive appreciation for Memorial Day, to actually give it thought.

My step father was a Marine whose journey took him to the Solomon Islands and he would regale me with stories of whole islands that glow at night from the air, because of a blanket of phosphorescent fungi... never any talk of terrible things. He came into the life of me and my mother at just the right time and I am forever grateful for his life and having even such a faint connection with that epic chapter of our history.

Your story is beautiful. Thanks again.

Posted by Hannon at May 25, 2009 2:28 AM

What a wonderful remembrance. I grew up in NYC and spent many an hour at Battery Park. I remember the monument of which you wrote. I must say that your uncle did your family and our country proud and I, along with the vast majority of Americans, greatly appreciate the debt of gratitude we owe him but can never repay.

One thing that stands out among some of the comments above is that some among us do not understand what your uncle died for and that is a tragedy. There is a world of differnce between what he, and the others in the greatest genaration of our lives, did for us. They defeated those who would have shut down our right to speak our piece, even in dissent. Bush, on the other hand, sent others like your uncle to die in Iraq for no reason whatsoever that has anything to do with the safety or security of our country. This is not the place to debate policy so I will go no further. My hope is to return our nation to the world that your uncle died fighting for.

Posted by Stan at May 25, 2009 8:17 AM

Thanks for sharing this again. I check in every Memorial Day just to reread it.

Posted by physics geek at May 25, 2009 9:20 AM

Every year I read this, my reaction is the same. It is quite wonderful.

I look forward to reading it next year.
Posted by: Chip at May 26, 2006 10:15 AM

Ditto.

Posted by Morgan K Freeberg at May 25, 2009 1:11 PM

Not long ago I watched the video series "Why We Fight" produced by the US in WWII (available on YouTube). It showed the actions of the Germans and how they systematically subjugated large swathes of Europe in their quest for world domination. I could feel the sense of dread that Americans must have felt at that time, fearing that "soon the Hun would be at their door". I understand better now why do many men like young Gerard entered the fight -- brave men protecting what they love and cherish. God bless them all.

Posted by CBDenver at May 25, 2009 3:43 PM

I always look forward to reading this essay, as I consider it one of your finest, Gerard. I am always moved to tears when I read it, but especially today, when we are once again on the brink of Insanity thrust upon us unwilling, cringing slackers by truly vile and wicked men.

Posted by Jewel at May 25, 2009 9:15 PM

Thank you for expressing what so many of us would like to say. Your personal experience becomes a valuable testimony for many.

Posted by Joseph Carruth at May 26, 2009 10:43 AM

This is just as moving to me as the other times that I've read it. Thank you. You're a really good man.

Posted by Maggie45 at June 2, 2009 8:31 PM

Thank you for sharing this. I had to comment because of this: "I was a child of the long peace who had avoided his war and gone on to make a life that, in many ways, was spent taking-down the things that my namesake had given his life to preserve. These days it makes me feel cheap and contemptible to think of the things I did to point out all the ways in which this country fails to achieve some fantasied perfection. I was a small part of promulgating a great wrong and a large lie for a long time, and I'm sure there's no making up for that."

A sailor is a small part of a shipwreck, but he did not create the storm or build the ship and so can't take any blame for the wreck: to be blamed are the makers of the storm as well as those who deliberately steer the ship onto rocks in order to benefit from its sinking.

Those were difficult times to come of age, far more difficult than the times in which your uncle probably grew up; and intoxicated by the cultural 'wine' of those days, many of us did and said things we aren't at all proud of now.

That doesn't make us guilty. We can leave the truly guilty to History; most of us were simply young fools for trying to reject what we could never be sundered from. We accomplished a good thing in spite of ourselves: we showed everyone, including those who will follow us, just how inalienable our rights really are by trying to repudiate them in just about every way possible, and each time, utterly failing. We beclowned ourselves in the process, but that's all: we deserved it.

An inalienable right is one's own; it can't be repudiated or transferred, or even preserved by anyone for anyone else. All that comes on a much higher plane and is pretty much out of our hands.

It can only be realized. We do need to be reminded of our rights' worth, and that is what the sacrifices down through the years have shown us. Love is much more powerful than regret.

Almost as valuable as the sacrifice of those who serve this great 'city on a hill,' especially those who die while in that service, are the preservation of their stories and the transmission of that heritage to new generations. You have done exactly that with this wonderful post. Thank you, again, for sharing it.

Posted by Barb at June 8, 2009 5:14 AM

That was timeless, Jerry.

Posted by Cond0010 at November 11, 2009 1:44 PM

Thanks for writing that Mr. Vanderleun.
Sometimes tears can be sweet.

God bless those greatest among us who have lived and died to secure our liberty.

Posted by monkeyfan at November 11, 2009 2:13 PM

Beautiful, again.
Tears, again.

Posted by Cathy at November 11, 2009 4:44 PM

Never gets old. It's a classic.

Thanks to all our veterans.

Posted by newton at November 11, 2009 10:07 PM

I thought of this essay as I was clicking through TV channels last evening. I am pretty certain this monument was featured in a scene on the CBS series CSI NY. The Gary Sinise and Lawrence Fishburne characters referenced the sacrifice of the WWII veterans as part of their dialogue.

Posted by Kevin at November 12, 2009 12:47 PM

You are exactly correct. I saw the the same episode and recognized it as well.

Posted by vanderleun at November 12, 2009 4:03 PM

Dear Gerard -- You again bring me back to, "All those who've loved, will meet again."

Thank you.

Posted by FamouslyUnknown at November 13, 2009 9:16 AM

Alan Kellog, Steven crowley was my uncle :) , you mispelled his name lol. but its all good, i never had the chance to meet hime, i was born 21 years after he was killed :( but my grandma shows me pictures,his plaques, and trophies, medals... i feel like i know him

Posted by Katelyn Crowley at September 2, 2010 11:05 PM

Yes, this is the first blog post I ever read, so powerful, it drew me into the blogosphere and into being a daily reader of American Digest. I knew it was a long time ago and before my Mother passed away in 2004, but it is nice to see it again and see the original date. As a genealogist, I wish I could get everyone to write up pieces like this one as a preservation measure.

Posted by Sara at November 11, 2010 2:45 PM

Have just come back from the Remembrance Day Service at our Cenotaph. It was very moving. Each year our line of veterans gets smaller. Hope to be reading your wonderful prose again.

Posted by Circe at November 11, 2010 5:33 PM

Thank you for the wonderful post Sir.

I intended to post more here, but cannot. It is too painful.

Thank you,

Terry

Posted by Terry at November 11, 2010 7:36 PM

Still the best post you've ever done here at American Digest.

Posted by Webutante at November 12, 2010 6:35 AM

My grandfather and my mother served in the Army. My grandfather served in WWI and WWII. My mother was a cryptologist in Germany. My stepfather was part of the French Resistance and smuggled Jewish people over the Pyrenees into Spain. He is French-Basque. He hardly ever talks about that time. I thought I was very cool back in the protest days of Vietnam. I lived over the mountains from Berkeley and participated in anti-war protests in our town. I also have come to appreciate the sacrifices so many have made for freedom.Your post is so very touching. I am going to read it to my students.

Posted by Candy at November 13, 2010 7:50 PM

Very beautiful, Gerard. Your uncle, and men like him, gave us Americans almost 60 years of peace. They alone are to be thanked for our beautiful, carefree, and somewhat spoiled, lives. We can never really thank them.

Posted by ahem at November 14, 2010 10:19 PM

Very fine. I'm sure your grandparents forgave you. They were young once themselves.

Posted by Rick at November 15, 2010 2:28 PM

Interesting.

Mr. Van der Leun, you may want to delete this comment. I hope not. I do not mean it as any sort of insult or slight on you....

[You're right. I make it a point to delete comments made by a mind diseased that exists in this world only owing to the sacrifices made by people far better than he is. If you could know shame, you would feel it.]

Posted by Rollory at November 19, 2010 12:44 PM

Shame?

A man who denies his own grandson that child's own name, for reasons that the child has absolutely no control over, is the one who should feel shame.

You, for _approving_ such treatment, should feel shame.

You know the thing about how children who are abused grow up approving it and continue the behavior with their own? Sad example.

Posted by Rollory at November 23, 2010 7:32 AM

Gerard, I find myself wanting to call you "Jerry" now, but I think you've earned the name "Gerard" with this essay. It was painful and yet beautiful to read.

My father came home alive from his service in WWII. My husband's uncle did not. He died and was buried in a POW camp in the Philippines. I can't imagine the pain his widowed mother must have felt, she who emigrated to the states from Finland in 1902 and never spoke more than a few words of English. She never got over her youngest son's death, I am told; it hit her worse than the loss of her husband. Our children are, after all, supposed to outlive us.

Thank you for being honest enough and real enough to share the history of your name with a wider world. Thank you for bringing this post back up on Veterans Day. It is a very eloquent example indeed of why this day should be commemorated.

Posted by RandomThoughts at November 10, 2011 11:12 PM

This is one of the most powerful essays I've read. Thanks for reposting it. God Bless.

Posted by Scott M at November 11, 2011 3:59 AM

I would think Gerard, if he were alive today, would have been glad - and honored - to have his nephew named after him - even gladder of the man that you have become.

Thank you for reprinting this essay of your Uncle Gerard. Its as powerful now as when I first read it.

Posted by Cond0010 at November 11, 2011 4:24 AM

Potent! I've read it before, it becomes more powerful with time.

Posted by Peccable at November 11, 2011 4:28 AM

Gerard, I know the pride that you carry with the name Gerard...and with good reason. Thank you for this quiet, eloquent post. Thank you also, for growing after your time at Berkeley. We are the richer for it!

Posted by NealinNevada at November 11, 2011 8:29 AM

Your Uncle and your entire family would be and are proud of you. I am glad you were named after him.

I am relieved that you are back working and soldiering on for us. You are our writing warrior.

Posted by Grace at November 11, 2011 9:03 AM

Your writing has moved me to tears. Very powerful, very meaningful. Thank you.

Posted by golden west at November 11, 2011 9:10 AM

I can hardly believe you were ever stupid in any way, shape, or form. Maybe a know-it-all young man, but stupid? I seriously doubt it.

Posted by Captain Dave at November 11, 2011 10:21 AM

I love reading this every year.
I guess the humbling experience that you learned from has helped shape the fine character that is Gerard...
Here's hoping that you have many more Veteran's Days to share this with us.
Thank you.

Posted by Uncle Jefe at November 11, 2011 10:58 AM

Still as powerful and moving as the first time I read it.

So glad you are back.

God Bless.

Jim

Posted by southernjames at November 11, 2011 2:20 PM

Came to your moving post this morning via Daniel Greenfield's "Friday Afternoon Roundup" e-mail message.

Most memorable to me was the silence amongst your kin that you described when you announced at the table you were no longer to be called Jerry. It seems to me that there is an immense love contained in that silence, to which you acquiesced. That silence helps me to understand both your uncle's motivation to serve and your motivation to write as you do.

After Basic Training in '67, and before heading off to Germany to do my draftee stint there, I visited my parents. My dad and mom had met in the Army and were married in uniform in '43. My dad had also served two tours of duty in the Korean War. Though I had asked him to, at times over the years, he never spoke of his wartime experiences. His response was always the same: "Someday son." This time I thought he would finally speak. I sat down with him, wearing my dress uniform, and said "Dad, would you tell me about the war?" He turned, looked me right in the eye and quietly said, "Someday son." I never asked him again. My family too was bound together by some deep, loving silences.

Thank you sir, for the vicarious visit to your hearth, home and history. Take care and be well. God bless you.

Posted by Walt Gottesman at November 12, 2011 6:26 AM

Gerard,

I never tire of reading this beautiful story. The last time I was in New York City I made a point to visit this monument. Thanks for reposting again on this important day.

Cate

Posted by Cate at November 12, 2011 11:16 AM

You have given your uncle's legacy new life, Gerard. Thank you for sharing this. It is an honor - and humbling - to know of your family's sacrifice. Saying "Thank you" to veterans, to families of fallen heroes, just doesn't suffice. I think we all could work harder to be deserving and respectful.

Posted by RedCarolina at November 12, 2011 6:14 PM

Beautifully written as only something heartfelt can be. Finely written.

Posted by mark smith at November 11, 2012 11:11 AM

You're a good man, Gerard.
Your namesake is proud of you, I'm certain.

Posted by Fred at November 11, 2012 12:12 PM

A very powerful piece.

Thank you for giving it to us.

Posted by Larry Sheldon at November 11, 2012 1:26 PM

It was your uncle's story that told me I had a friend I did not know yet.

Posted by sippican at November 11, 2012 4:22 PM

Gerald,

Thank you for giving us the gift of this rememberance. I've read it each year and it still touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes. Our world is a better place because of the sacrifices made by your uncle and the multitudes like him. Our world is a bit more wonderful due to your skill in putting this experience in words.

Thank you for all the excellent essays you have written. I hope and pray that you will have many years to continue enchanting us.

Thank your uncle (God bless his memory) for being willing to give his all. Thank your family for being great enough to have bourne two men who were both worth of the name.

Herb Cumbie, EMC(SW) USN Ret

Posted by Another Old Navy Chief at November 11, 2012 8:30 PM

Gerard:

What a beautiful and moving tribute. I'm in tears. I had pretty much given up hope for my country after last Tuesday. Thank you for reminding me of what matters. The one regret I have is that I never served my country in uniform. My failure to do so means that I will always doubt--to some degree--my manhood. Thank God for men like your uncle and my father, who saw combat in the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, but who came back to give me life and a country in which I could *choose* not to serve.

Posted by FunkyPhD at November 12, 2012 12:55 PM

Gerard:

I have loved your pieces on American Digest for so long, but have taken such a long break from reviewing your site, that it gives me great pleasure to think of you this Veteran's Day morning and re-visit the site. All the better to find this magnificent piece at the top.

Hooahh !!! May you stay strong and ever vigilant.

Posted by RattlerGator at November 11, 2013 4:59 AM

We saw the monument on our visit to NYC last June. Your essay still moves me, enjoyed for years now. We are an Army family. Some passed, some retired and some still serve. Thank you for this tribute to our service.

Posted by Tom at November 11, 2013 6:30 AM

Gerard,

This beautiful piece by you has more relevance today than it did the first time I read it. Look how far this Nation has descended in five years.

Peace be with you.

Posted by Terry at November 11, 2013 8:30 AM

"My name, "Gerard Van der Leun," is an unusual one. So unusual, I've never met anyone else with the same name."

I checked:

http://howmanyofme.com/search/

Sure enough:

"There are 1 or fewer people in the U.S. named Gerard Vanderleun."

Posted by Fat Man at November 11, 2013 9:43 AM

Thanks, great piece. In 1975 I was a young Coast Guardsman stationed on a Cutter home-ported at Governor's Island. I spent many hours in that park, seated by the monument. Years later, I moved back to a renewed city, and would visit that and the haunting Merchant Marine memorial nearby.

Posted by Will at November 11, 2013 3:03 PM

This memory of a young man lost to war and the grief of his parents touches the deepest parts of our souls. It makes that grief real. The uncompromising grief which so many millions of parents and family have had to bear down through the years. It lays bare the reality of such sacrifice and love, which we honor on Veteran's Day.

Thanks, Gerard.

Posted by Jimmy J. at November 11, 2013 3:43 PM

Excellent article, and something that everybody should read for perspective. I think you've done pretty well by your namesake. You may have taken on his name for the wrong reasons at first, but in writing this, I think most would agree that you've done pretty well by him. There must be thousands who've read this and now appreciate his sacrifice, and perhaps will think that behind every name on that wall, and all of the other walls around the country, there's a hero who never made it home and a story the world at large has forgotten.

I think we would all be better men, and more inclined to appreciate what was won at so dear a cost, if we took but a moment to think about the staggering implications when we look at such memorials.

Posted by Cato at November 11, 2013 9:08 PM

I am at a lost for words. I am glad for these traditional memorials.


Your family gave you freedom.

Do you think left leaning institutions and teachers bear any culpability ?

Posted by grace at November 11, 2013 10:42 PM

You also wear the name well, Gerard. Lovely essay.

Posted by Tari at November 12, 2013 2:38 AM

Hi Gerard,

I accidently bumped into your article, searching a name for my new born son... I thought the initial read would lead to an American's travel to some war memorial... but when you unfolded the suspense, that he was your uncle... and events with family thereon... It became touching from the gravity of emotions of your grandparents.

I have a query and a point of view hereon, its that, why id your parents choose to gave you that name at the first place, when it was not intended to be used ? If you rename a new born as a remembrance to someone, you are ought to recall his dignified existence and contributions by taking the name.. So its a sort of anti climax by your old folks.

But nevertheles, the article is a great read.

Aman

Posted by Aman Vijay Jindal at November 12, 2013 3:42 AM

I took a good look at your uncle's picture, and I couldn't but think of how he must have been a great individual to be with; how many airmen would have respected him, and how many women would have considered him a great guy to present to Mom and Dad.

I also saw, in my mind, how he would have been shot from his plane in the middle of the North Atlantic, and watch as his plane fell into the sea, his body and face wounded, only to feel the chill of the icy waters, the fear and the hypothermia mingled into one overwhelming agony, until it all became cold, darkness and silence.

It must have been a horrible way to go for him.

No wonder your grandmother grieved him so terribly! No parent ever wants to bury their child, but the fact that no body was ever found made it ten times worse for your grandparents.

Why your parents named you after him, knowing they - or you - could never use it as long as your grandparents were alive, I probably will never understand. IMHO, that was a wrong done to you: you never deserved to bear such a burden.

As for your atoning for having once been against everything your uncle and parents supported, don't worry, Gerald. You have atoned - plenty. You are forgiven, as far as I'm concerned.

It's your generation, the Baby Boomers, who will see the Day of Reckoning coming to them. And it won't be pretty.

Posted by newton at November 12, 2013 7:28 AM

Thank you for sharing those moments of your life with us. It is a fine reminder of the importance of the bigger picture. And thank you to your uncle, may he hear the echoes of gratitude from all those that are aware of his sacrifice.

Posted by Gary Imperial at November 12, 2013 8:28 AM

As to the question of why my name was chosen since 'my parents knew it could never be used'.... that's a different story about what happened afterwards, after the war.

Suffice it to say that my parents did not, at the time I was born and named, know how my grandparents would react in the future.

At the time I was born they lived far away from each other and the other things that happened had not yet unfolded.

Posted by vanderleun at November 12, 2013 8:46 AM

Your parents made a highly questionable decision when they gave you a name that your grandparents could not bear to hear spoken aloud.

It was not unreasonable to ask your grandparents to call you by your legal name.

"You are right. I am not him. I am a totally different person whose name is also Gerard. That is what I will be called from now on. Pass the onions."

Posted by JP at November 12, 2013 8:47 AM

Thank you Gerard for posting this essay. I am also of your generation and remember the mid 60's well. We were young and foolish at times about our freedoms and the cost paid by so many. We owe that generation so much!!!!!!!!!! GOD Bless.

Posted by RV at November 12, 2013 9:53 AM

Gerard; not only a name but a model for the rest of us to be inspired by and question our values regarding Duty! Honor! Country! I was drafted in 1966 right out of High School and joined the Navy. The exploits of Gerard in the North Atlantic, my Dad on an LST in the Pacific, Uncle in the Army Europe, Uncle in the Construction Battalion in the Pacific provided a sharp contrast for me over the antics of the so-called "Peace Movement" and Berkeley. The sacrifice of your Gerard the aviator and other warriors who stood and died fighting tyranny and for the oppressed is a priceless legacy for those who take the time to consider their selfless actions. The light may not shine on the names of those who gave all but even in shadow they have a glow all their own which illuminates the soul for those who wish to understand sacrifice and honor. You are tasked with living up to the name you were given.

Posted by Vet66 at November 13, 2013 5:27 AM

Gerard; not only a name but a model for the rest of us to be inspired by and question our values regarding Duty! Honor! Country! I was drafted in 1966 right out of High School and joined the Navy. The exploits of Gerard in the North Atlantic, my Dad on an LST in the Pacific, Uncle in the Army Europe, Uncle in the Construction Battalion in the Pacific provided a sharp contrast for me over the antics of the so-called "Peace Movement" and Berkeley. The sacrifice of your Gerard the aviator and other warriors who stood and died fighting tyranny and for the oppressed is a priceless legacy for those who take the time to consider their selfless actions. The light may not shine on the names of those who gave all but even in shadow they have a glow all their own which illuminates the soul for those who wish to understand sacrifice and honor. You are tasked with living up to the name you were given.

Posted by Vet66 at November 13, 2013 5:27 AM

Gerard; not only a name but a model for the rest of us to be inspired by and question our values regarding Duty! Honor! Country! I was drafted in 1966 right out of High School and joined the Navy. The exploits of Gerard in the North Atlantic, my Dad on an LST in the Pacific, Uncle in the Army Europe, Uncle in the Construction Battalion in the Pacific provided a sharp contrast for me over the antics of the so-called "Peace Movement" and Berkeley. The sacrifice of your Gerard the aviator and other warriors who stood and died fighting tyranny and for the oppressed is a priceless legacy for those who take the time to consider their selfless actions. The light may not shine on the names of those who gave all but even in shadow they have a glow all their own which illuminates the soul for those who wish to understand sacrifice and honor. You are tasked with living up to the name you were given.

Posted by Vet66 at November 13, 2013 5:27 AM

Gerard; not only a name but a model for the rest of us to be inspired by and question our values regarding Duty! Honor! Country! I was drafted in 1966 right out of High School and joined the Navy. The exploits of Gerard in the North Atlantic, my Dad on an LST in the Pacific, Uncle in the Army Europe, Uncle in the Construction Battalion in the Pacific provided a sharp contrast for me over the antics of the so-called "Peace Movement" and Berkeley. The sacrifice of your Gerard the aviator and other warriors who stood and died fighting tyranny and for the oppressed is a priceless legacy for those who take the time to consider their selfless actions. The light may not shine on the names of those who gave all but even in shadow they have a glow all their own which illuminates the soul for those who wish to understand sacrifice and honor. You are tasked with living up to the name you were given.

Posted by Vet66 at November 13, 2013 5:27 AM

I read this out loud to my family. Again.

Posted by Katherine at November 13, 2013 8:59 AM

Gerard.

I suspect that your namesake is somewhere somehow celebrating his pride in his family with gratitude for the good man you have become.

You will see him again. But not yet...not yet.

Posted by ks at November 15, 2013 12:12 AM

What a fantastic read. A story every American should hear. I am glad I found this.

Posted by Rob K at November 16, 2013 5:26 AM

I love this piece, Gerard. I re-read it every time you put it up.

Posted by mikeski at November 11, 2014 8:33 AM

Beautifully written story-thank you

Posted by MMinCC at November 12, 2014 3:42 PM

The single best essay I have ever read on the web. Period.

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I've been surfing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
It's pretty worth enough for me. Personally, if all webmasters
and bloggers made good content as you did, the internet will be much more useful than ever before.


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