“Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” – From an Irish headstone [Tweet this.]
People who say the least about themselves are often the ones with the most incredible stories.
I only met Bill Skinner once. He was the uncle of a dear friend of mine. On this Memorial Day I want to share his remarkable story with you.
Typical of kids who grew up during The Great Depression, Bill was humble, hardworking and had strong values on what really mattered in life.
The day after Pearl Harbor, Bill enlisted in the US Army. He served from 1941 until the war ended in 1945. He was part of some of the most famous, significant and costly battles during the war. He returned home a military hero.
And he never once spoke about it.
Bill considered himself lucky. He lived. He came home. He didn’t wear his medals. He never discussed his service or bragged about his adventures. He viewed the heroes not as the ones still living, but the brothers he’d left behind in North Africa and Europe.
About 10 years ago my friend and I visited Calvary Cemetery. It’s a huge cemetery in St. Louis where a friend of ours is buried. It was the middle of the summer, it was terribly hot, and we got lost.
There were countless headstones covering the grounds, but no visitors except one man we noticed in the distance. He appeared older and was bent over. As we neared, we saw a few flags and grass clippers near his side as he scrubbed a gravestone.
The man was Bill Skinner.
Every month since returning home from Europe five decades earlier Bill had come to this cemetery, scrubbed dirt and bird droppings off of the his fallen brother’s headstone, clipped the grass around it by hand and placed a new flag in front of it.
He’d wipe his sweat, occasionally his tears, and then move onto the next stone, the next friend, the next fallen brother.
Just like his activities during the war, Bill did this quietly. He told no one. Had it not been for this chance encounter, he would have died with no one knowing that he spent not only four years serving our country, but the following six decades serving those that he considered the true heroes.
Today, in the United States, many of us will race off to barbecues. We’ll enjoy a day off work. We’ll enjoy family and friends and fun. But first, let us pause and remember why we really have this day off work. Let’s give thanks for our incredible opportunities. And let’s remember the sacrifice that provided these amazing freedoms.
To live in the hearts, minds and actions of those we leave behind is to never really die. On this Memorial Day, let’s make sure that the actions, humility, sacrifice, life and death of these heroes continue to shine brightly through the lives of those of us lucky enough to live on. [Tweet this.]
Today is your day. Live inspired.
Friends, on this Memorial Day let’s celebrate the heroes who’ve served our country. In the comments on my blog, please share one family member or friend who served and tell me a little about them. Let’s celebrate their service and life…because although death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.
8 replies on “A Real Hero often Say the Least”
My dad also served in WWII and never spoke of it. I knew he served and that was all.
Then I attended a speech given by a man who had been held in a slave camp for many years in Soviet Russia. He spoke of the day he was transferred back to US soil and he saw the American flag for the first time in more than 15 years. He said his legs could not support him as he crumbled to the floor in gratitude weeping and realizing the freedom it stood for. As he spoke of all that our flag meant to him and the terrible price that had been paid and still continues, so that we can enjoy freedom I was mesmerized.
I couldn’t help but wonder why Dad had not relayed to my brother and I this lesson – about the price that was paid for the freedom we enjoy and take for granted.
When I asked him why he never told us about the war, even after all those years tears came to his eyes as he thought back on what he had been through and witnessed. He still couldn’t talk about it much and the pain of having lost buddies was still very raw and real. His greatest hope was that we never have a war happen on our own soil like he had been a part of in Germany.
That part of our national history seems to be lost on this generation – sadly, patriotism is taking a back seat to ‘selfies’.
I cried when I watched American Sniper as I was reminded again of the terrible price still being paid for my freedom. We definitely need to be reminded of how very fortunate we are to be Americans.
I love your weekly messages John – they are so relevant.
Ardith, thank you so much for sharing. Your dad is a hero and your life shines that truth everyday…as does the lives of each of your neighbors. Thanks for being an inspiration seeker and for all you do. J
My father, who art in heaven, is John J. Rhoades. As a young B-24 co-pilot, his Liberator was shot down on 4-4-44 at 14:00 hours over Ploesti Romania. Captured by the Romanian army, Dad was held in a POW camp until that October. We lost over 600 aircraft during that critical mission which is nearly impossible to comprehend in today’s world of warfare. By pure coincidence, he was buried in Jefferson Barracks, just 25 few feet from my younger brother, Gregory J. Rhoades. May they rest in peace together.
Thx for sharing, Marlott. Sending love, gratitude and light to you and your family heroes today and every day for the ultimate sacrifice they made. Our country was profoundly blessed by them. J
It was an incredible honor to serve this country on active duty. My husband is also retired Army. My daddy was a soldier, as was my husband father. But this isn’t about either of us or them. I’d like to mention my granddaddy. His name was also Bill. He served his country with pride. He was a true hero, and also didn’t talk about it. I had the beautiful honor of “interviewing” him once about his time in the service. It was one of very few times I ever heard him speak of it. He was a pilot, who taught other pilots to fly, be safe and return home to their families. You see, he was in the Army Air Corps, before the Air Force became a thing.
I am sincerely grateful for all the sacrifices made by all who have gone before us, and for those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we so often take for granted.
Wow, Laura, thank you and your beautiful family for serving and loving our country so dearly for generations. What a gift you have given to us. Thx for sharing. J
My Dad, Lewis Bambridge Taylor, Jr., (born 7/16/25 died 2/16/99) served as a Submariner during WWII, was a man small in stature but large in humble gratitude.
We are remembered not by our physical size – but by the way we love, give and serve…I’d say your dad was a giant force in this world. I am grateful for him and for your sharing. Thank you, Sharon. J