Memorial Day will be different this year for many Americans, but not as starkly so as perhaps it should be. Danger from the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t waned as much as it’s become familiar. Family gatherings and trips to the beach or the lake were unthinkable a few weeks ago. Now may states have been reopened to some degree, and the beaches are available, as are restaurants if you’re prepared to wait longer for a table because of 50 percent capacity restrictions.
Many people, however will stay home, seeing the prospect of a traditional holiday outing as risking their lives for a few days of freedom.
Ironically, that’s what Memorial Day is all about — not water skiing or sunbathing or grilling hamburgers and enjoying adult beverages, but remembering the men and women who risked and lost their lives for our freedoms.
Here at the Eagle’s editorial page, we cannot imagine a patriotic holiday passing without remembering Acie W. Taylor of Geneva, a nonagenarian combat-wounded veteran. The approach of each Memorial Day and Veterans Day brought a message from Acie. They were more war dispatches than letters to the editor, painstakingly rendered in block letters with a dulled pencil:
“We entered the Huertgen Forest in Germany on Nov. 22, 1944 at night. It was dark, cold and sleeting … Speaking of the Huertgen Forest, you are speaking of Hell on earth. This was one of the worst battles of World War II, if not the worst.
“This battle I will never forget. I served in the 121st Infantry Regiment in the 8th Infantry Division from 1941 to 1945. The total casualties for the 121st Infantry Regiment in World War II were 4,842.”
Acie’s war experiences were long behind him, but his vivid recollection of the people and events of World War II battles stands as an enduring reminder of what we’ve lost to ensure what we have.
Acie W. Taylor died in 2016 at 96, and though he would have turned 100 this year, we expect he would have found time to chronicle his experiences once again.
We’ll never forget Acie and what he experienced. To remember him is to appreciate the sacrifice of those felled in war.