Letters: On Memorial Day, Remembering Those Who Served

By Kent Hackmann

On Memorial Day 2013, I remembered four men. One, a paternal uncle in Missouri, fought for the Union in the Civil War. The second, a maternal uncle from Massachusetts, was on the Western Front in World War I. The third is my late father-in-law. A USMA graduate, his active duty career included World War II and the Korean War. The fourth is my father. Fresh out of high school in 1917, he joined the Navy, later earned a commission through ROTC at the University of Nebraska, and served in World War II.

The attack on Pearl Harbor called my father to arms. Then in middle age, married, and father of two young sons, he might have asked for a deferment. Instead, he took up his commission. I suspect he was inspired, as were many Americans during the war, by President Roosevelt’s address to Congress in January 1941. FDR boldly declared the goal of protecting, everywhere, four essential human rights – the freedoms of speech and worship, and the freedoms from want and fear. In 1943, Norman Rockwell popularized those human rights in four famous oil paintings, and in 1944 the Post Office recognized them with a commemorative stamp.