Memorial Day – True Story

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring people who have died while serving in the Armed Forces. Unfortunately for the human race, most of us are related to someone who died in a war. This is a story of one of my family members as best I remember. It may not be entirely correct, but this is how it has been told to me over the years.

Alexander was born with a “lucky cap” which means he was born in the caul. This occurs when the infant is born inside the entire amniotic sac. It’s considered good luck. Some people are so superstitious they keep the sac rather than discarding it. Alexander’s parents were not superstitious and did not keep his.

When he was in his early 20’s he was fighting in World War II in the ski patrol. They were highly skilled as they needed to be strong at skiing, survive high altitudes, freezing temperatures and of course combat skills. They were the only division trained to fight in the mountains. According to NPR, “the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division served in combat for only four months, but it had one of the conflict’s highest casualty rates”.

Needless to say while in the Italian Alpines, they encountered Germans in several battles, some worse than others. Alexander was in a battle so violent his entire platoon was killed.  The only survivors were Alexander and one other man.  The other man pulled out a necklace from under his uniform thanking it out loud. Alex assumed it would be a cross or crucifix. “What is that?” he asked about the strange little pouch his fellow soldier wore around his neck. “It’s my lucky cap! I was born in the caul. My mother made me wear it to war.”

That’s our family story as well as I remember.

We know there is no rhyme or reason as to who lives or dies in wars. But in the madness, it’s good to keep touch with humanity and storytelling is exclusively human. This is a family story. We tell it to remember, we tell it to connect ourselves with history, and we tell it because it’s family.  The truth about the 10th Mountain Division can be read here. It’s one of many war stories American’s will be sharing today. War is a terrible thing and something I will never fully understand, yet I do feel obligated to honor and remember all those who fought, survived, suffered, lost, or died in the name of their country.

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