I don’t know much about my uncle, Fay Reber. I have seen blurry black and white photos of him, and I can see why the girls in his high school thought he was handsome with dark wavy hair, olive skin and an easy smile.
Fay died on July 20, 1944, when he was shot out of the air somewhere in Germany during WWII. He was 25 years old.
Obviously, I never met Fay. I never met his wife because he never had one. I never met his children because he never had them. I never gathered with him for Thanksgiving or laughed when he told me stories about growing up with my mother, Millie.
And now, I don’t think many people think of Fay at all. His parents are dead. His siblings have all passed. He doesn’t have children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren to gather at his grave to honor his service or to carry on his name. No one gathers around a Thanksgiving table and reminisces about the patriarch of the family because that family does not exist.
Mom was just 14 years old on the day that the military vehicle drove slowly down the street and pulled into the driveway. She gasped, knowing what it meant, and ran outside to get away from the uniformed soldiers knocking on her door. The blue star indicating a soldier in service affixed to the front window would eventually be replaced with a gold one, and all the world, it seemed, would know that her brother was never coming home.
More than 75 years later, I don’t want his sacrifice to be forgotten. I don’t want Fay to be forgotten. And I don’t want all the “other Fays” who have given the ultimate sacrifice to be forgotten.
I hope each of us can take a moment to contemplate our good fortune today, even if life isn’t perfect, and to sit in quiet remembrance of the incomplete lives of countless servicewomen and men. And I hope that in those moments, soldiers like Fay Reber live on in our hearts.