A day to remember
Alice Holt choked back tears as she gently placed flowers Memorial Day at the grave of a man she’ll never stop loving.
“I would have married him again,” the South Lake Tahoe woman said of Raymond Brassfield, a U.S. Army soldier who died in 1981 at the hands of a drunken driver.
Holt, who comes to the Happy Homestead Cemetery every year to pay her respects to him, joined about 70 people at the flag-dotted grounds Monday for a formal tribute to fallen soldiers conducted by American Legion Post 795.
The stories may differ somewhat. But in tender moments, a community marred by wars like any other came to embrace those in the armed forces who gave their lives in the name of a common thread – freedom.
From World War II to Vietnam, many made the ultimate sacrifice for it.
“I’m glad I have a vet who’s alive,” Bev Shedd of Stateline said, clutching the arm of her husband Bob. He served in World War II.
The two, who have been married for 58 years, were inspired to turn out to witness all the traditional pomp and circumstance on the day of remembrance after reading a poignant poem that ran in the Ann Landers column.
Like the stories, the motivation of those who attended varied as well.
“I always drive up for this. You don’t know who they are, but you’ve got to honor them. It’s very important to appreciate the freedom and sacrifice that has been made,” Jill DeVos of Sonoma said, pointing to Earl Lewis Robinson’s grave. It said “our loss, heaven’s gain.”
The purple heart recipient fought in World War II and died in February 1998.
DeVos’ mother, who was a nurse, and her late father also served the United States in World War II.
“They got married on a three-day pass,” she said.
Even when they were stationed apart for three years, their love never died, DeVos insisted.
“He wrote the most incredible letters,” she said, recalling a time when she thumbed through them with her mother. Her father died three years ago.
Post Cmdr. Gene Ross noted that every year the South Shore’s Memorial Day service is different.
“We try to add more to the ceremony,” said Ross, who joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars seven years ago.
The experience has changed the life of the Vietnam vet, who fought an episode of major depression when he was told by doctors that he only had three months to live. That declaration as a result of a bout with cancer was made eight years ago.
Ross, who’s served as the post commander for four years, knows how emotionally stirring it can be for loved ones to rekindle old war wounds.
“You never get over it. Even in wartime, your buddy could be standing right beside you, and the next minute, he’s gone,” he said.
Ross’ wife Gayle said she vividly remembers those times when her husband of 42 years served in Vietnam. One comfort was that he kept on sending letters home.
“He was better about writing than I was,” she said.
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