As many gather with friends and family this weekend in what has become the unofficial kickoff of summer, we must all remember what Memorial Day really stands for. We must honor those who have gone before us and paid the price of our freedom.
On this Memorial Day weekend, I’ll be attending a memorial service in Barrington, Illinois, for Richard Holl Ash, my Uncle Dick. Uncle Dick died earlier this month at age 97. It is fitting that I honor him for his service during World War II as a member of the “Greatest Generation,” that generation of young men who put their lives on hold to go to the far corners of the globe to fight the scourge of fascism, as well as for his continued service to the Nation after the War.
My Uncle Dick was the second son of Robert Thomas Ash and Pauline Holl Ash of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. My Father was Uncle Dick’s older brother. They were six years apart. They both grew up in an idyllic little town in Pennsylvania located almost equidistant between Philadelphia in the east and the “Dutch Country” of Lancaster County in the west.
My Father joined the Army first. My Uncle Dick had hoped to go to West Point, but his “friends and neighbors” on the local draft board selected him to serve in the Army instead. While my Father fought the Germans and Vichy French in North Africa and the Germans in Italy, my Uncle Dick arrived in Europe after D-Day. It was his division that bore the brunt of the German attack in the Ardennes in the Battle of the Bulge. Due to the harsh weather conditions, Uncle Dick’s ears, hands, and feet were frost-bitten, and he had to be hospitalized. Although he recovered, he suffered from the effects of that frostbite for the rest of his life.
Following the war, Uncle Dick returned to the States. Like so many young men returning from the War, he was a man in a hurry. He wanted to make up for lost time. Uncle Dick married his sweetheart, my Aunt Dusty, whom he had met while his division had been in Indiana training to go overseas; went to college at Bucknell University on the GI Bill; and then was selected to join the FBI. For the rest of his professional life, Uncle Dick served in the FBI. He retired as an Assistant Director of the FBI. His FBI assignments took him and his family all over the United States—from Washington State to Kansas to Minnesota to upstate New York to Washington, DC (multiple times).
Like so many others of the Greatest Generation, my Uncle Dick’s service did not end when he took off the uniform. He lived a life of service to the Nation both in and out of uniform. Like so many others, when he was needed, he was there. May God bless him and each member of his generation.
At some point, Uncle Dick will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, where he will join my Father and Mother, my wife, my parents-in-law, and so many other honored dead of our Nation. His interment will be delayed because so many are dying from his generation that it takes months to schedule a funeral at Arlington. Someday, assuming the Lord tarries, my Aunt Dusty will join him at Arlington.
It is at Memorial Day that we honor those who died in our Nation’s service. It gives us the opportunity to pause and reflect on those who served and died to keep us free. So many laid down their lives that we might enjoy freedom. Although it is always sad to lose a loved one, we have a blessed hope that one day, each Believer will see our Lord face-to-face and be reunited with those who have gone on before. What a glorious reunion that will be.
Farewell, Uncle Dick. I look forward to seeing you on the other side!
I urge each of us to take a moment this Memorial Day to reflect on what so many men and women in uniform have done to keep us free. President Abraham Lincoln may have said it best in his Gettysburg Address: “[F]rom these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Amen!
May God bless each one who laid down his or her life that others may live and may God bless the United States of America!
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