Monday, May 27, 2013
Memorial Day Memories
Today I have been thinking a lot about my grandfather, Fred Heise (pictured above with my grandmother, Lurlene). I never knew Fred, he died in 1945 when my mom was about 8 months old. He was only 24.
I don't know a lot about Fred. He died so young and so long ago, any family lore about him is lost to time. I do know where and how he died though. It was January 26, 1945 at Birmingham AL. He was the pilot of an SPAAF tow plane that was attempting to take off and crashed into the side of a hill. A terrible accident. Once, when I mentioned his military service and death to my grandmother, she made a point to remind me that he died stateside, the implication being that he wasn't really a hero. Dying stateside in an accidental plane crash in 1945. I can see how that may have seemed like a less than heroic death when compared to the thousands of men fighting and dying on foreign soil or even sleeping in their bunks at Pearl Harbor. I am sure there must have been those who expressed this sentiment to his widow, for even all those years later she seemed to be apologizing. As if losing him weren't enough, she should have lost him in battle.
Maybe he didn't die the traditional heroes death as it was perceived in 1945, but in my heart I believe he was indeed a hero. I have a letter written by one of the men who served with him, detailing for my grandmother how Fred and his copilot released the gliders they were towing before crashing into that hill. They were thinking not of themselves, but of the men in those gliders. They used their final moments to try to save their friends.
John 15:13 says this: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." I think that says it all. It's not about country or national pride. It's about being willing to die for the person next to you. It is saying to the world that your life, the most precious gift you possess, is worth sacrificing to save the life of another.
If I could reach back in time and speak to Fred Heise I would tell that young man that his sacrifice was not in vain. His gift of life was appreciated. I would tell him how I wish I had the chance to know him. I would say I am proud to be his granddaughter. I would say "thank you". On behalf of your family, your country, and your fellow soldiers, past, present and future, thank you.
Happy Memorial Day America.