It’s an odd thing to say. Something I have never said out loud as a matter of fact. Even writing it feels a little strange. Uncle Reece is my “would-have-been uncle.” He was my father’s older brother. I’ve heard a few stories about him, but not many. He was enough older than my dad that they didn’t do a lot of things together. And he was just old enough to sign up for the war. Or I should say The War. WWII, the big one, the one over there. The biggest war to end all wars. That one. Anyway, Uncle Reece went to war and never came back. That is why he is my would-have-been uncle.
Memorial Day is about remembering those who served their country. The history begins with the Civil War and was originally called Decoration Day because of the way folks would decorate the graves of the civil war soldiers. And still graves will be decorated. Services will be held, if not well attended. We do remember. We will remember. But it is good to be reminded of the need to remember.
Our history is rich with stories of sacrifice and dedication in the face of overwhelming odds. Many families can remember with pride a family member who stood up when it was needed. Many families remember a family member who paid a high price for their country. Some of those we remember died during the conflict; others came home and died later – sometimes much later. But we remember them all. And we give thanks.
Not for their death, however it came. We give thanks for their willingness to serve. We give thanks for the terrible sacrifice. We honor them. On this day and beyond. Memorial Day is one day, but there are other days and other ways to remember. We chose a personal way to remember Reece Weber.
Our son Rhys is named in part in memory of my would-have-been uncle. But also in memory of my Grandfather who was named Reece and who also is dead now. We changed it to the Welsh spelling to celebrate our British connections too. We remember them both in tangible ways.
I said earlier than I never heard much about my dad’s brother, and that is true. But I do know one thing about him. The fact is, he was under age when he went to sign up for military service. But there was a loophole. If a young man was under 18, he could still join if he got his parent to sign for him. So, he went and asked his dad to sign for him to serve. He really wanted to go, it was the right thing to do, he though. It was necessary for his country, he thought. Everyone was doing it, he thought.
Dad said that Uncle Reece and Grandpa sat up late into the night arguing. There was yelling and silence. There were even tears and pleading. But his mind was made up and in the end Grandpa went down with him and signed the forms. It wasn’t long after that moment before Reece went off to war. And never came home.
Dad says Grandpa lived with regret for the rest of his life. There was even some strain on the rest of the family. If only, he said and he thought, if only. The truth is the war last long enough that Reece might have gone a year later and still died in the war. But no one could ever know. Hearts were broken. Families were torn apart. Tears in the night were a common occurrence in a time of war. And still are. War is and always has been an ugly thing.
We can, on Memorial Day, honor service and commitment and remember those who are no longer among us with flowers and parades and moments of silence. But I think that the best way to honor the sacrifice is to do all that we can to work for peace. We honor the dead by protecting the living. We thank the peacekeepers, by becoming peacemakers. We lift up those who have fallen while fighting, by choosing to study war no more.
Thank you Uncle Reece.