May is National Military Appreciation Month and National Family Month, and Memorial Day is on May 31—making this is a perfect time to honor loved ones who served in the military and risked their lives to protect our country. Because of that, I reached out to 14Y’s partner Voices from War, an organization that works with veterans, to learn how their program participants observe Memorial Day. But first, I would also like to talk about a family member who is special to me. That special someone is my late Grandpa Paul.
Grandpa was my mom’s dad and the son of Polish Ellis Island immigrants. He served in World War II as a navigator in the American Air Force when he was in his early 20s. Grandpa Paul flew missions in Italy with his fellow airmen. He helped pilots find their way to their targets and guided them home safely, and his team dropped bombs down on enemy depots below.
Like Grandpa, my grandma Gaby also played a role in the Second World War—in this case, as a lookout in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. My dad’s dad, Grandpa Murray, also served in Italy as a supply sergeant during that time, though I hardly knew or met him. These special people, especially my dear Grandpa Paul, cultivated my fascination for World War II, especially the heroes who fought for our country and the world. Although Grandpa Paul sadly passed away in June 2015, he still inspires me to write incredible stories, be a kind, brave and loving person, and carry him in my heart.
I also asked my colleague, Jacob Ross, how he celebrates Memorial Day.
“I usually celebrate Memorial Day with my family. Sometimes my brother comes from out of town so that we can all celebrate together. One of my favorite Memorial Day activities is to have a BBQ where I can eat hotdogs and hamburgers (classic!). Memorial Day is an opportunity to honor and think of those who have served and died in wars.
This Memorial Day, I will be in Richmond, Massachusetts with my mom, taking advantage of the scenery during this beautiful time of the year.”
In anticipation for Memorial Day, I reached out to Kara Frye Krauze, Founder of Voices from War, to ask the veterans she works with how they celebrate Memorial Day and their recommendations on how people can honor veterans in their community.
We heard back from veterans in Voices From War workshops and a Voices From War instructor, who is also a past participant at the 14Y’s workshop. She noted that “the responses, individually and collectively, are imbued with a sense of loss, memories and remembering, and inflected with camaraderie, offering a thoughtful approach to Memorial Day and the long weekend, one we’ve come to associate with the beginning of summer, but which simultaneously marks the valuable role of quieter pursuits—grief and commemoration of those lost during their service.”
“Memorial Day is to give thanks to all the veterans who served their country and to remember the sacrifices they made. Thank you for your service and welcome home. Also not to forget our fallen heroes who didn’t make it back home while serving during their military contract.”
“This year, I will try to live up to the spirit of Memorial Day by reading about the deceased. I mean, really read about them and try to understand as much as possible as to who they were as living, breathing individuals.”
—Jeremy Warneke (veteran & Instructor, Voices From War, “The Craft of War Writing,” Morris Park NYPL)
Together, we raise our glasses to honor the heroes in the armed forces.
VOICES FROM WAR offers craft-focused writing workshops for veterans and related literary programming, broadening opportunities for diverse dialogue, publication, community and events. We value inter-generational participation and veteran-civilian conversation, looking to literature for both commonalities and expressions of difference. Writing provides opportunities for finding greater clarity, through narrative, and deepening understanding. Working on creativity and craft together.
Voices From War is proud to be hosted by the 14th Street Y since 2013, with an additional workshop in the Bronx hosted by the Morris Park NYPL since 2016. VoicesFromWar.org