This is the day when Britons observe two minutes of silence at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour. Fewer than 23 World War I era veterans survive, down from 51 at last year's remembrance. Tomorrow is Veteran's Day in America, and last year I wrote about the service history of my Gr-great Uncle, WWI veteran Edward Olmsted.
This photograph was taken in 1943 when my grandfather, then a navy surgeon, was posted at a recruiting center in Nashville Tennessee. He was there long enough for his family to briefly join him, moving to two more stateside assignments before shipping out to the Pacific in the summer of 1944. The happy baby in the sailor hat is my mom, seated in the lap of her father, Bob Barker, with her elder sisters Peggy and Happy perched behind. This is one of my favorite family photographs both for the moment it captures and for what it represents.
The monument commemorates the Battle of Nashville, Tennessee: a horrendous two-day engagement near the end of the American Civil War. Clearly the family decided to take in a local site of historic interest - my grandmother behind the camera - but with my grandfather in uniform the picture takes on a deeper meaning. He and his wife and young children make the sacrifice for him to serve his country in one of its times of greatest need. World War II defined my grandparents' generation, as well as their marriage, for my grandmother like so many others raised her young girls alone during her husband's deployment. They wrote daily letters to each other and the children ended their prayers at night with "and bring my Daddy safely back to me." My grandmother told me there wasn't a dry eye in church one Sunday when my mother's small voice popped up with that coda after the Lord's Prayer.
To those who serve, and for all who love them: come safely home.