This coming Monday, like every last Monday in May, is Memorial Day. Many will use the extended time off from work to BBQ, be with family, work in the yard, play with the kids, rest, go camping, have fun, etc.
It Is Much More Than That…
Wikipedia – Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.
Bernard Francis Pigott was a Sergeant in the US Army. He served in WWII. I never had the chance to meet him. I only know him through old, black and white photos and stories that my Dad would tell me. He died a few years after the war, from wounds he suffered during his service overseas. He was just 36.
My Dad was ten years old when his Father passed. He tells stories about how his Dad owned a hobby shop and all the cool things he had for sale, like toy trains, model kits and metal cars. Before the war, my Grandfather drove a truck for a trucking company to make a living. After the war he drove a bus in Queens, NY. He taught my Dad how to drive a tractor in upstate New York when he was just 9 years old. And just for fun, my Grandfather and a few of his buddies got together and ordered 125 White Castle hamburgers to see who could eat the most! HAHA! My Grandfather was a real blue collar, hard working man. Always a fun guy to be around. He was tough and built like a tank…. I wish I met him.
During the war, he served under General Patton. He fought in Italy, France and Germany. He was one of 7 out of 100+ soldiers in his Company that survived the war. It’s just unimaginable the horror and pain he must have witnessed. He was awarded The Bronze Star for his bravery. I was told he didn’t want any medals for his service. I can understand why. After his death, my Grandmother made sure to get his medals as a remembrance of what her husband sacrificed.
Like so many after the war, he came back a changed man. The war took from him something he could never get back — a piece of his souI. My Dad never had the opportunity to know the man my Grandfather was before the war. I can’t imagine how hard it was on my Dad to have lost him at such a young age. War doesn’t end for the soldier just because they come home. It stays with them. Especially back in those days, when outreach programs for veterans hardly existed. Returning soldiers and their families were supposed to just deal with the issues on their own.
Today, my Dad displays his love for his Father by keeping his casket flag on a shelf next to his office desk. A remembrance of a difficult time, but also a remembrance of a man who sacrificed so much, so that his children and future generations could grow up living in a free country.
Losing someone to the ravages of war affects one’s entire family tree, not just in the immediate, but for generations after. What might my Dad be doing today had his Father not gone to war? Would he ever have met my Mom? How would my life be different? No one knows. I can only speculate. The truth is, it happened. What I do know is that because of my Grandfather’s sacrifice and the sacrifice of thousands of other American soldiers, I am provided with the freedom to write this article in a cafe’ without worrying if I am safe or not…. I am eternally grateful.
Let Freedom Ring!
During this Memorial Day weekend… go celebrate, BBQ, play with your kids, work in the yard, have fun and enjoy your freedom. But at some point during your festivities, take a moment… think and realize how lucky you really are. And say, Thank You….
I am sure my Grandfather would appreciate it.
Bernard F. Pigott III
Bernie Pigott is a speaker and consultant in the areas of leadership, media communications and crisis management. Mr. Pigott is a C-Suite Network Advisor for the C-Suite Network. He is a former Sr. Manager and Producer with over 20 years of experience in the news industry working for FOX News Channel, FOX News Radio and CNBC. His high content, memorable programs include unique stories gleaned from his years of experience in the news industry. For bookings visit BerniePigott.com.