A powerful event

Brian Ferry

The annual Roll Call at the Memorial Day Ceremony in Warren is a powerful event.

This year, the names of 126 men and women who gave up the familiar and comfortable to serve our country in times of war and peace, and died over the past year, were read.

Typically, I do not recognize many of the names. I wrote down four names from the list that rang various bells.

I didn’t really know any of them. But, I knew of them. I knew something about them. It was better than if I had not.

Cpl. Daniel Stroup (U.S. Army) was awarded an Ambassador of Peace Medal at a ceremony I covered. He was about to take an Honor Flight to Washington DC, but he died shortly before that event.

The others were among the amazing veterans our staff members interviewed about their service in World War II — SSgt. John Stanton (U.S. Army), 2nd Lt. Fannie Donovan (US Army), and Walter Langford, who served in the Merchant Marines and then received his Army draft notice after the war was over.

I didn’t interview any of them. But reading their stories helped me feel like I knew them just a little.

As I heard their names, I thought of some of the men I had spoken with about their service who have also passed away.

Then I realized that every one of the men and women on the list had a fascinating story. Maybe not of bravery. Maybe not of glory. Maybe not even of seeing the world.

But, unquestionably one of sacrifice and service. Unquestionably, one worth hearing.

I remember speaking to a World War II veteran who was surprised I would publish his story. I don’t like to stereotype, but they certainly seem to be a humble bunch.

The point of all this is, if you know someone who served, talk to them.

If you need an excuse, shake their hand, thank them for their service, and say you would like to know more about their service.

Who knows, maybe that veteran left home at 16, hid about a ship and traveled the world for a year, then joined the Merchant Marines.

Maybe, she left her job and used her surgical training to become an Army nurse and treat the wounded and sick.

Or maybe, like John Stanton, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross.

You never know. Maybe that veteran will live to 110. Or maybe they will be gone before you get the chance to talk to them.

I think of George McKown, the first World War II vet I interviewed, and the first whose name I heard among the Memorial Day lists.

He was so happy to have talked to me.

And I was so happy to have been the one to have talked to him.