The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

A Local Veteran Tells How He Learned About Memorial Day

by Jack Brokaw, World War II Veteran of Biggsville, now a resident of Oak Wood Estates Assisted Living, Stronghurst

Dessa asked me what Memorial Day meant to me.

Well it started a long time ago, as I thought about it. I was four or five years old and went over to my grandparents (Fred and Nancy Brokaw), which was only 50 yards from our house. I just walked in, as usual, and grandma was standing looking out the east window with her hand on her chest, (now I know it was her heart), there were tears on her cheeks. I asked her what she was doing and she explained to me it was Memorial Day and she was having a few minutes of silence and prayer for all the men that had lost their lives in WW I and the Civil War.

She did this every year and later went on to tell me about the losses in the Revolutionary War and about the thousands that served.

Grandma said that many came home with scars of battle, arms or legs missing and some with both. Some were severely wounded, as well as blind, and many with their lungs burnt from poison gas.

Many returned with memories of close buddies being killed right beside them, memories that are with them forever.

Grandma would always cut flowers from her yard and took them to the cemetery with granddad in his Model T Ford. The three grandkids, Lois (Campbell), Lillian (Bray), and myself were invited. This was a tradition that was carried on through out my youth.

When I was older, I joined the Army Air Force. My Grandma Brokaw was diagnosed with cancer while I was in the service during WW II. She kept asking dad if I would get home before I shipped out.

I was finally able to tell him they said "everyone would get a 10 day furlow and I would be home in 3 weeks for 10 days. Dad answered everyone was glad, but when he told grandmother, who had not sat up for all of a month, she tried to sit up, clapped her hands a couple of times, then fell back on the pillow and sobbed.

Dad said she improved from then until I left to go back. From that time on it was down hill and in approximately one month later she passed away while I was on the ship "Argentina" in the Mid-Atlantic.

After getting out of the service about 3 years later, we went to the cemeteries before Memorial Day.

If I was to be on duty with VFW or American Legion we would go a day or two before. To this day grandmother Brokaw is among those utmost on my mind.

In past years my wife and I would purchase flowers and then after a week or two would go back and pick them up. We would see flowers, ours as well, that had surrendered to the wind. Some flowers separated from the wire and we saw a few of them and picked up the wires.

We quit buying flowers about six years ago except for about 3 or 4 cemeteries, sometimes a 5th. I cut frawns from my Junipers and put them out the same as we used to the flowers. They stay green and the lawn mower likes them a lot more than the wire. I've been told by two cemetery sextons they wish everybody did that.

And I'm very sure my grandmother would give her absolute approval.

"May God Bless you all this Memorial Day."