The 'constants' we cherish today
Memorial Day is a wonderful constant. Every year, it never ceases to touch me. My family attends an annual parade in Mercer, with the flags, the kids, the snow-cone stand, the marching bands and, most of all, the troops from different wars — that is, the survivors who remain with us.
Speaking of whom, Memorial Day always brings another constant, a sad one: Each new Memorial Day brings fewer World War II veterans. They are leaving us at a rapid clip. Anyone who entered World War II at age 18 in 1945 — the final stretch when someone could have joined the war effort — would now be 86 years old.
A colleague of mine was reminded of this reality just a few weeks ago. His name is Glenn Marsch. He teaches with me at Grove City College. As a professor of physics, Glenn understands something about constants and universal laws. This Memorial Day will be his first without the constant of his father. He lost his dad in March.
Glenn's dad became a soldier in October 1944, shipping off to the Pacific. He was an Army construction engineer, often a dangerous job. He had fellow troops, friends of his, who were killed. He personally incurred a serious wartime injury.
Because his father didn't talk about the injury (or the war), Glenn didn't learn the full extent of it until the funeral.
“My oldest brother revealed that Dad had been burned over much of his body,” says Glenn. “He recovered and went back to active duty, but I never saw him on a beach without a shirt and long shorts.”
His father stoically concealed his wounds.
Glenn's dad quietly came home from combat and served his country as a good, God-fearing American who held a job, loved his wife, raised his kids and made a better culture and country. And there were millions like him.
Another was John Shrode. Born in Rockport, Ind., on Aug. 11, 1925 — just four days after the birth of the girl (Martha) he would marry and take care of for 67 years — John landed on Omaha Beach at 7:35 a.m. on June 6, 1944: D-Day. He was literally among the first Allied troops to storm the beaches of Normandy. The French government awarded him the Croix de Guerre for rescuing France from the Nazis.
“He will forever be my hero,” says his daughter-in-law, Kendra Shrode. Kendra's husband, who was John's first-born child, died in 1989 without ever really knowing about John's service.
John's life wasn't easy. He grew up in a broken home, had only an eighth-grade education and lost a child. Later in life, he developed three types of cancer, atop other illnesses. He struggled to take care of his wife as she came down with Alzheimer's.
Nonetheless, says Kendra, “He was the most well-read ‘uneducated' man I have ever known. And his life code was integrity. The strength of this man lives on in his children and grandchildren.”
A dairy and grain farmer, John went on to work for Caterpillar Inc. for 31 years. He loved his wife, raised his kids, and made a better culture and country.
“As I stood looking at the flag tributes and glanced over at the fields,” says Kendra of a recent visit to John's grave, “I realized he will be forever with us all.”
For all of those veterans who didn't make it to Memorial Day this year, I say thank you. You remain constants — forever with us all.
Paul Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values and the author of “The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mentor.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police identify driver in North Side crash that killed pregnant woman
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Turkey Trot runners turn out to burn calories despite chilly Pittsburgh temps
- Starkey: Rutherford will add when timing’s right
- Steelers’ backups Archer, Harris ready to run
- Comeau’s hat trick leads Penguins; Crosby reaches 800 career points
- Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
- Pitt plays best game of the season in rout of Kansas State
- Queen of crime writing P.D. James dies at 94
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Blairsville judge accused in hit-run set to enter program for 1st-time offenders