While waiting for a bus one day a not so sane older woman came over to where I was standing and faced me square on and shook her finger at me. Her rant, “Do your duty!”
At the time I was terrified she would scream, grab me or beat me with her stout cane and people going by would assume I’d done something to her when in fact I had done nothing of the sort. I wondered what had possessed her to tell me to do my duty. All I was doing was waiting for the bus to take me from a stressful day at work to the peace and quiet of home.
I grew up in the relative security of a non warring nation but I’ve always wondered about those who have not had it so lucky. Stories or reminiscences about those who have volunteered to fight for our freedom have stuck in my mind from childhood. I had a second cousin who gave his life so I could live. Having never known him, some might say how can you remember? I remember him through stories but most of all I remember him because I took the time to get to know him.
How do you get to know a dead man you never met? Research. One of the joys of military records is the wealth of information just waiting for us to explore. Through it we can once again develop a 3D picture of the person who once was.
Of course some countries have kept more information than others and the same goes for the families. Some have few stories, pictures or items linking them to their relative. The medals and photos have in many cases long since lost the personal connections that once went with them.
It is up to us to bring them back together to tell the story in the present. For two years I have been researching the past of not one relative but the entire crew that he served with during WWII. As a result, today I remember seven men. I know them better in most cases than I know their own living relatives. They have become my boys.
They have become my duty. ©