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Veterans Day 2021

Back in June, Charlie and I visited the local cemetery to wander the headstones, read the engravings, and piece together bits of history. It’s something we enjoy doing, even though doing so always enflames my ongoing existential crisis and brings great sadness to my heart. 
Earlier this week, we returned to the same cemetery on a beautiful autumn day to plant flags for every person whose marker indicated that they had served our country in the armed forces. 
It was a pretty glorious day. 
We first returned to the stone marking Howard Ryder, Carpenter’s Mate, Third Class, who, after some research back in June, I learned was aboard the American troopship USS Henry R. Mallory on February 7, 1943 when it was torpedoed by U-402, a German U-boat off the coast of Iceland, killing 272 Americans, including Ryder, whose stone indicates he was lost at sea.
Back in June, I wrote about the battle that resulted in Ryder’s death, as well as my research into his family that ultimately led me to the obituary of his mother, Minna, and mine and Elysha Dicks‘s donation to the town library in her name (as her 1962 obituary requested).
After I planted a flag at Howard Ryder’s stone and thanked him for his service, Charlie and I scoured every inch of the cemetery, looking for markers indicating military service. We found more than 50 in all, including service men and women from the Revolutionary War, World War I and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam.
My great-grandfather fought in World War I. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II. My father fought in Vietnam. My brother was thankfully not required to fight in armed conflict, but he was a member of the US Army and was preparing to deploy to Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm when the conflict thankfully ended. 
Watching Charlie plant those flags brought all of those men to my mind. Each one of them served our country in a time of war. On this Veterans Day, each one of them is in the forefront of my mind. 
When we found a marker indicting military service, Charlie would ensure that it was clear of debris, then he would read the name and the branch of the military in which the deceased served. Then, as he planted the flag, we would thank the person for their service. 
I have video of him thanking some of these men and women for their service in his deeply sincere, still boyish voice. It’s just perfect. 
We also found the stone of Vietnam veteran Paul K Moser, who, like Howard Ryder, was lost at sea. Charlie and I plan on doing some research on Moser soon, like we did for Howard Ryder, in hopes of discovering who he was, how he died, but most importantly, to spend some time thinking about the man and remembering his service to our country.
It’s the least we can do.
Thank you to all the veterans on this day for your service to our country. You have not been and will not be forgotten.