It’s me, Nate.
This Memorial Day morning my wife Vanessa got us all gathered around the dining room table for some quiet reading time. Our 4 year old wasn’t having it and he took off to play “croquet” with a rubber mallet and a tennis ball. Our 6 year old went out to supervise. Soon the two of them were using the mallet to pound tennis balls into my car’s exhaust pipes.
But even with that excitement out the window, things had gotten pretty quiet around the table. When she figured we were in the right frame of mind, Vanessa passed around some old pictures of her Uncle Robin. Robin was a young and handsome Navy pilot. He graduated from Annapolis Naval College in June 1964. He married his sweetheart Sandy the next day.
Three years later, in July 1967, while flying a mission off the carrier USS Oriskany, Robin’s plane was shot down and he was killed in action.
As we looked at pictures of Robin as a Navy pilot, son and brother, and young newlywed, Vanessa read to us from a letter Robin’s father had sent to the family’s friends at Christmastime in 1967. Robin’s dad, a World War II veteran, was still in active service in the Army at the time. He wrote:
“…Robin went out on one of the first missions on the 15th of July. He and his wing-man located some armed ships of the enemy and took them under attack. On the second pass, Robin reported to his wingman that he was hit. After his wingman had cleared the target on his second pass, Robin went in for his third pass. The wingman on exiting from his third pass was unable to locate Robin’s plane or to raise him on the radio. Robin had reported being clear of the target on his third pass but evidently crashed at sea shortly thereafter. A search and rescue mission was called out but all that was found was evidence of a crash. We had lost our oldest son.”
Memorial Day hit home today as Vanessa read Granddad Cassell’s words. Robin was much much more than a Navy pilot. He was a young husband. He was a brother. He was an oldest son.
As I looked around our table and out the window at our 7 beautiful children I was simply overwhelmed by the sacrifice made by Robin and his family. It wasn’t the sacrifice on July 15, 1967 that was hard to think about. It was all of the days since that day.
I then started thinking about the thousands of other families who have made similar sacrifices. I am grateful we have a holiday set aside to honor these sacrifices and to remember these brave people. Both those that were killed and those that loved them and have lived on.