With Memorial Day approaching, I recall many outings and gatherings, mostly Easter, funerals or weddings, where my Greek cousins or uncles would discuss quietly their experiences in the war between each other.
As a kid, I would sit close by and listen. Once they were doing this and I was reprimanded that if I wanted to sit in, not to sneak around doing so. They then told me it was OK because they knew I had a genuine interest in their history.
It never stopped and I found out amazing things about the men I only knew as Uncle Nick or Cousin John. They were true heroes to me. Once, I got into a fist fight telling a schoolmate that I had a warrior relative and he said I was lying. He got the worst of it!
When I list the MOS of each military family member who fought it is amazing; they were infantry, or combat engineer, medic, pilot, waist gunner on B-17s and 25s, one flew a P-51, one a PT boat captain, one a 101st trooper at St.l Mere Eglise, Eddy Lambros of the 82nd, a distant cousin, one a Navy 40MM gunner in the Pacific, one a Marine (killed on Saipan) and one who entered the war at its end but flew B-25s in Korea.
I asked my dad why he didn’t talk about the war and he said it was too painful because of what the Nazis did to his village in Greece, where they executed 87 villagers, some family, because Greek partisans killed an SS officer in another village miles away. He took me to their monument on a trip to Greece in ‘83 with the names of two Lambroses on it and where I found out his brother, Diamond, a Greek sniper, was murdered by the SS in early ‘43 just below his house.
We traveled with Gus, my dad’s cousin, who fought in World War II as a partisan and later the communists in ‘47 in Athens and the countryside. About 20,000 Greek partisans were killed in Greece and neighboring border countries fighting the Germans and Italians.
I feel rather meek in all of this family history but proud that I once wore the uniform, brief as it was. I have deep respect for service folk since our family has been there, done that. Many young today don’t have the military connectivity I had and get glassy eyed when attempting to understand these things. At least I can remember my departed family heroes and each Memorial Day feel lucky to have lived among those who have fought willingly to maintain our freedoms and still do. Lucky indeed!