A day of remembrance


Monday is Memorial Day, a day to remember those who served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice.
It’s always had a special meaning for me, growing up in my grandfather’s house. He taught me the meaning of this special day from a young age.
I count myself fortunate that he was able to do so when so many of his generation were unable. Of course, there are — and sadly, will certainly be — many more people to remember on this and all future Memorial Days. There are many in my own family going back as far as the Revolutionary War.
War has touched us all in some way and it is important we pay tribute to those who spent their lives to make us free or to help free others even as we enjoy an extra day off work or attend a barbecue or visit the graves of loved ones.
My grandfather, himself a veteran, often told stories about his time in the Army and the friends he made, both to entertain and to help him remember his comrades. Serving in an engineering company, he didn’t see much combat — in fact, he told me that after arriving in Europe, he often didn’t even carry his rifle. Well, at least until then-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton took command of the Third Army in France.
Grandpa landed on the Normandy beach several days after D-Day. He told me the only people behind his unit were grave registration companies. Serving in the rear left him plenty of opportunities to make memories appropriate to share with a wide-eyed kid raised on Hogan’s Heroes and old movies like The Longest Day, Guns of the Navarone and Bridge over the River Kwai. One of my favorites involved a young lieutenant, a truckload of radio tubes, a weekend pass to Paris and a hotel room rented for a Hershey bar. He came back, alive and whole. Not all veterans were that lucky. Memorial Day always put me in mind of one them, a family member and a fixture in my life despite his absence.
A few years ago, I was on assignment at Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial here in Perryville, which includes a full-sized, exact replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. The mood was contemplative and the voices hushed as visitors made their way down the wall, searching for the names of friends and family, often pointing them out to children and grandchildren. Sometimes they shared stories of the good times. Other times, they seemed lost in memory.
As always, I stopped at Panel 3E and found line 80, where the name of a great uncle I never got the chance to meet is listed among the tens of thousands who lost their lives in Vietnam.
Dale Francis Hudson was born Nov. 20, 1938, in Poplar Bluff. Drafted into the Army, he served as an SP4, light weapons infantry, 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, B Company. wHe died Nov. 17, 1965, near LZ Albany, Ia Drang Valley, Pleiku Province, South Vietnam.

That place and date might sound familiar to some. The movie We Were Soldiers, based on the book, We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (Ret.) and journalist Joseph L. Galloway, details that battle, the first major engagement between U.S. forces and the North Vietnamese.
Dale was a soldier, but he was also much more.
Dale was my grandmother’s baby brother. He was killed three days before his 27th birthday, six years before I was born. His daughter, my mom’s cousin, was just a baby.
“If I were able to have one thing in my life, it would be to speak to the man I never knew,” she wrote some years ago on VirtualWall.org. “To know the man he was and to have the knowledge of the man he could have been. To be able to say ‘I love you, Dad.’ ”
There’s undoubtedly more to this man, things I’ll never know. All I have are the stories my grandmother told me and a few pictures in dusty old albums.
I wish I’d gotten to know him. The least I can do is remember him — and all the others who gave their lives in service.
Rest easy, Uncle. You won’t be forgotten.
Robert Cox is the publisher of the Perry County Republic-Monitor. His email is RMpublisher63@gmail.com.