I always knew him simply as Cousin Del, even though he was actually my mom’s cousin, not mine. He never married and took care of his mother until her death. After my family moved to Minnesota (in the 1970’s) he would turn up at various family functions. He was a pleasant (but quiet) man, with a witty sense of humor.
After his mother died, he stopped coming to family events and became a bit of a recluse. At first he would take phone calls from his cousins, but in recent years had even stopped doing that. Dropping by his home to say hi was definitely not appreciated. The cousins would occassionally drive by his house to see if the lights were on and the lawn mowed, 2 things that would indicate he was OK.
Cousin Del passed away last fall, and the few remaining relatives and friends gathered at Ft. Snelling National Cemetery last month for an interment ceremony.
In the last visit my mom, her sister, and a cousin had with him he told them (for the first time ever) that he had been captain of a landing craft on D-Day. All day long he transported soldiers from the ships to the beaches, back and forth, knowing that many of them were disembarking to their deaths, and knowing that he could be shot as well. This would have been his view.
The recluse cousin, it turns out, was a hero.
Thank you, Cousin Del.
Quite a revelation. Even with the aid of historians and movie directors it is hard to fathom on the individual level what these young men were called on to do and then carried out. Ken’s nextdoor neighbor flew in a B-29 bombing the Ploesti oil fields. I had the honor of meeting him once, a gentle man with a good sense of humor. Another friend has his Uncle’s footlocker from the Pacific campaign. His beloved ‘Uncle Klel’ drove amphitrac landing craft in some of the major landings. The footlocker is in ‘time capsule’ condition with two illustrations from Life magazine tacked inside the lid: a Thanksgiving cornucopia and a glamour girl. Then these men continued to serve in the military, come home or pioneer on the mission field. Many dealing with the memories and trauma of battle in different ways. As I heard a d- day veteran just say on the news while looking at the field of crosses at a Normandy cemetary: “We all gave some, and they gave it all.”. The legacy these veterans heroism and grit is a source of inspiration for me. In the words of one of my favorite veterans, Amen and Amen.