I’m writing about something a little different for my 52 Ancestors post this week. Earlier this summer, a brick honoring three men in my family was placed at the veteran’s memorial at Riverside Park in Murphysboro, Illinois. I stopped by a few nights ago to take some photos. It was bright; the sun was setting behind the memorial and it cast a warm glow … almost a sparkle … over everything.
My grandpa took me to Riverside Park a lot when I was little. The park sits adjacent to the Big Muddy River. I explored every inch of that park, including inches much too close to the river for my mom’s comfort! We celebrated birthdays there when I was a kid, we celebrated Independence Day there until I was well into adulthood. The park was as much a part of my upbringing … my life … as my own home was. So, there’s no better place for the memory of my grandpa and his brother and their grandpa to live.
In 1928, the Veteran’s Monument was dedicated by the American Legion.
In my lifetime, it consisted of several flags and two WWI German 37 mm anti-tank guns that were captured by US troops.
In 2006, the Veteran’s Monument was rededicated after the addition of the Veteran’s Remembrance Walk.
As I was looking for family names, I walked along the path reading names of veteran’s from all wars. I recognized some names from childhood, while others were completely unknown. All along the way, I wondered what these men and women sacrificed … if they had families that awaited their return … if they made it home.
It was a sobering experience, but one that brought back memories … not of soldiers or wars, but of the family that my soldier raised after he returned from WWII … the family that included his brother … the family that included stories about their grandpa.
These three men – Winfield Scott Douglas, James L. Raines, and Wilbern J. Raines – are all gone now. It never ceases to amaze me how lessons can still be taught by great men … heroes … long after death. Someday, a pig-tailed little girl will walk along this path, hand-in-hand with her grandpa, and ask about the names on these bricks. These names will start conversations and cause daddies and grandpas and mommies and grandmas to tell stories … they will live on in our memories forever. That makes me smile.