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This weekend, let us pause with peace

May 23, 2014 - By Chris Peck

Memorial Day has its roots in the complexities of war.

Some dads tell their kids about the wars they fought.

My dad, Bob Peck, didn't.

He was proud to have served his country during World War II.

Heck, he bluffed his way into the Army after a year of college in 1943.

His eyesight was so bad no colonel would ever have allowed him to be a soldier.

Standing in a long line of inductees, my dad listened carefully, memorizing the eye chart in advance. That's how he passed the vision exam and got in.

Over the years he spoke little about what he saw on the battlefields of Germany.

No glory stories.

Not much about who was killed.

He almost was.

On patrol in Germany in 1945, he was hit in the head by what essentially was a rocket-propelled grenade.

The only thing he remembered was somebody shouting "There goes Peck!"

He lived. It was one of three combat wounds he suffered. The shrapnel in his heel stayed with him until his dying day -- more than 60 years later.

He had a military send-off as part of his funeral.

He was, in that way, remembered, honored, and buried as a veteran.

He is but one. On Memorial Day hundreds of Wyoming families will remember stories about someone who served in the armed forces. Or died in that service.

True, the first big holiday of summer season most often is celebrated as a time for a picnic and a three-day weekend.

But in fact, Memorial Day has its roots in the complexities of war.

It's a day that harks back to the end of the American Civil War. In 1868 Army Gen. John Logan asked Americans to decorate the graves of soldiers who had died in that great conflict, both Union and Confederate.

The names and numbers of American war dead from Wyoming are well documented.

In World War II, 652 Wyoming soldiers and civilians died -- out of the 33 million deaths from that war worldwide.

The Korean War claimed 16 Wyoming soldiers.

The Vietnam War took 119 from Wyoming out of more than 58,000 Americans who died there.

The Two Iraq wars added 14 more Wyoming casualties to the military files.

So far, six Wyoming residents have died in Afghanistan.

Debate over the causes of war, the purposes of war, the outcomes of war will never end.

Nor will the casualties of war.

Family names of soldiers killed in the line of duty are familiar in Fremont County: Trosper, Lovato, Redman, Antelope, Appelhans, Dechert, Goggles, Coen, Faler, Glasspoole, Moss, Haggerty, Moore.

This weekend, we are reminded that no place, no matter how far from the fields of battle, is immune from paying the wages of war.

In honor of all who served, and who now are gone, let us pause with peace in our hearts to remember.

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Editor's note: Former Riverton resident Chris Peck retired recently as editor of the Memphis (Tenn). Commercial Appeal. He lives in Memphis.

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