When I was a kid there was a portrait collage on the wall of my grandparent’s home. My grandfather lost most of his brothers to war, and they spent many meals with us in stories from his childhood. These are the uncles I never got to meet, but men I felt connected to through my grandfather’s words. Who he never mentioned was the brother who survived in body but lost his mind, but I knew the story, and it haunted me for a long time.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’m on an Honor Flight with a man named Georgie who spends three hours telling me about his life experiences. I’m in awe and humbled that of all the things he could be doing, he’s talking to me.  He tells me about  the loves of his life, of his kids, his jobs vacations and friends he’s lost.  He talks little of war or service until we’re less than an hour out, but when he does his words are powerful.  He speaks to me of honor and compassion.  He speaks to me of the decades he’s spent watching strong men eventually defeat themselves.  In the end he tells me to remember those whose sacrifice has been forgotten, and I think of that forgotten brother on my grandparents’ wall.

In my life I have known so many of those “forgotten brothers”, and I have felt the loss of each and every one of them. Yes, there were friends and family members who never came home, but there were also those who did only to kill themselves shortly afterwards, to never quite find a way to grasp life again, to lose everything to one addiction or another. Then there was love I didn’t know how to handle, a decision I couldn’t make, and my future forever changed by the loss of my own “forgotten brother”.

So, this morning I took a walk through the part of my past I don’t generally see these days. It’s not that I avoid it, but it’s become a part of a life that doesn’t even seem like mine anymore, so I let it quietly lurk in the background of my memories. But today I took a walk, and the images became vivid enough to touch. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a dark place, or maybe it’s fresh loss. Maybe it’s just life’s way of reminding me where I’ve been in my life and why I keep moving forward, that these moments in time, and yes, these people, are still very much a part of me and each and every one of them is fighting for me.

I don’t tell his story often, and it’s not one I’m prepared to tell today, but today I honor him and all the forgotten brothers and sisters.

Aloha.

Go now, reflect and remember.

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