He never talked about war. He talked about the people — the “young men” as he called them, though he was barely 21 years old himself.

As a kid, he skippered a Naval LST in the Pacific at the height of that war to end all wars.

That’s where and how he grew up. Navigating the seas of war. Yet through the years I heard him share no more than a couple of anecdotes. My favorite is of the old warrior who, more than 50 years after the fact, tracked the skipper down to say thanks for a letter.

Each time a young sailor left the ship, the skipper wrote a letter to the young man’s parents. It expressed appreciation for service, focused on an admirable trait, and told the parents they should be proud of their son.

The old warrior wanted the skipper to know that the letter written to his parent’s decades ago sat framed on his mother’s fireplace mantel all of her life.

The Past As Part Of Our Present

If you read these postings regularly you may remember that Dad — the skipper — died earlier this year. Three current members of the U.S. Navy were at his grave site to honor his service. At the conclusion, one knelt in front of my sister, presenting the folded flag. There is no way I can express how moving the experience was.

Though he rarely spoke of it, there was never any doubt how much the memories were with Dad. I am certain there were unpleasant ones — it was war. But what he remembered most were those with whom he served. He cherished the relationships — their mutual investment in each other, and in the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands they would never meet.

Memories are the brain’s way of weaving the past into the fabric of the present.

On this Memorial Day I am reminded more than ever before that between the joy of beginnings and the hole in the heart that comes with loss, the only thing that lasts is what we invest in others.

Today — as we celebrate — we remember, and give thanks for the investments of all who have served, for those away from home and loved ones serving today, and for those who will serve tomorrow.