“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.