On Monday, the United States will mark the occasion of Memorial Day. First recognized as a national holiday in 1971, Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, originated after the Civil War. The day is intended as a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. Cities, towns and villages across America note the holiday by laying wreaths and holding parades featuring veterans and active duty military members. Families of the fallen decorate their grave sites with flowers and flags. In parallel to these more somber acts of remembrance, the long holiday weekend is also seen as the unofficial kickoff to the summer season and it is a time when families and friends gather for parties and barbecues.
Few among us enlist and serve in the military. There are myriad reasons behind the decisions made by young men and women, but for those who respond to the bugle’s call, we all owe an incredible debt of gratitude. One who did was a man I never met, my paternal grandfather. If you visit the Onondaga County War Memorial, you will see his name on the wall as one of so many local veterans who took up the call. Every time I am in the arena for a Syracuse Crunch game, I find my way to Memorial Hall and trace his name with my fingertips.
A United States Marine, he saw active duty in World War One, a year of which was in France where he was exposed to the chlorine gas that ultimately took his life when my father was only ten years old. Private Claude B. Huse was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, as well as the French Croix de Guerre, a Purple Heart, and a Bronze Star. The story behind the Silver Star is set out in the book “With The Help of God and a Few Marines” by Brigadier General A. W. Catlin (who is also known as the Commanding Officer of the Marines aboard the USS Maine), and his name is also cited in the book “Decorated Marines of the Fourth Brigade in World War I” by George B. Clark.
The newspaper headline read “War Hero Weds Local Girl” when he completed his service and married my grandmother. They went on to have five children together, and he was very active in veterans organizations, serving as NYS Commander for the VFW for a time. His military service left an indelible imprint on my father, probably mostly because of his absence from his life. His childhood was more filled with memories and stories retold by my grandmother and his older siblings than by his actual presence since he died at such a young age. The priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ogdensburg stepped in to partially fill the gap left behind, teaching my father and his younger brother manly things like how to shave and drive a car. Three sons went on to military service but none went to war, their tours of duty being in times of relative peace.
This weekend, we won’t have parades or large gatherings because of the necessary restrictions in place due to Covid-19. Lots of things are different now, but one thing is the same – this is an opportunity for us all to take a moment to recognize and be grateful for the sacrifice of those who dared to serve.
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Jennifer B. Granzow
Ms. Granzow holds a JD from the Syracuse University College of Law. Her practice is concentrated in the areas of business and corporate law, real estate, economic development, and government relations, with an emphasis on grants and public funding.