Today we remember the Uncle I never knew, Harold James Berry, jr.
He was smart very tall and the older brother my father idolized. He played varsity football, basketball, and captained the undefeated 1943 Kingswood baseball team. Shortly after the end of baseball season he enlisted in the Army, volunteering for parachute training. When I was growing up, my father reminisced about the time shortly before his brother shipped out to New Guinea, the neighborhood gathered to watch his brother jump out the second story window in his uniform and paratrooper boots. Everyone was so proud.
Uncle Harold made his first combat jump in the Leyte Mountains behind enemy lines. While on patrol, he was one of a group that captured valuable maps from the Japanese. He later took part in the Luzon action before being killed outside of Manila on March 20, 1945. He was twenty-one. His awards include the Bronze Star with V Device and one Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman Badge.
When my uncle died my father forged his birth certificate and joined the Marines. My grandmother's loving and physical heart broke. She went to bed for decades and never got up. The family never fully recovered.
My father went on to interview hundreds of veterans, listening to their stories, and writing books about their memories. I believe my father missed his brother every day of his life.
It is possible that no one alive remembers knowing my uncle. He never had a family of his own, his teachers and siblings are gone. But we remember. My oldest son, soon to be the last age my uncle knew, bears his birthday. My brother and nephew, a superb baseball player, carry his name.
I look into my uncle's eyes and see a young hero. Perhaps he was a bit scared, perhaps used to being the captain, he felt a sense of obligation. I see a young man who couldn't have any idea of what he was getting into.
Today we remember. For all those men and woman still at war, we remember and hope, so much hope, they can return to their familes someday soon.