Personal History of Memorial: A Tribute to Veterans

As Memorial Day approaches, it is fitting that we think of those who have fought, suffered and died to keep us safe.

In these troubled times for veterans – and those who care about them – we have been engulfed by stories of physical and mental disability– the horrors of post-traumatic stress disorder and the growing number of veteran suicides. More recently, many of us have looked on in astonishment at scandalous – and sometimes fatal – delays in obtaining health care that too many veterans have endured.

But Memorial Day is also a time for personal reflection on those we have lost, both recently and long ago. The video clip below describes one such personal loss – the death of my uncle and namesake, who died in a tank battle in North Africa at age 21, during World War II. For those of you who want to find out more about him, I have told his story in greater detail in my book The Gift of Adversity.

[Video 2:42] Personal Heroes


For me, poetry has always been a source of both joy and consolation, and I would like to share one of my favorite poems for memorial with you – one that seems appropriate for this day of sad and proud reflection.

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Mary Elizabeth Frye



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