Each May we end the month and begin the summer season with a grateful nod to our veterans, especially those who gave their lives in service to our country. And this year, we mark an anniversary that may not be as obvious as Pearl Harbor or D-Day, but is certainly as important: 1943, the year WWII paused before it turned around. The year the Allies were able to stop Axis victories and advances on all fronts. It would be a few more months — well into 1944 — before the Allies seriously started pushing Hitler back, but 1943 was the beginning of the end. It was also the year American women — not content with their roles as riveting Rosies — began to put on uniforms en masse.
And while the war was a cavalcade of horrors and a worldwide social cataclysm, it was also, let's admit it, a very romantic era. The global unrest, coupled with a surge of patriotism and military urgency, fueled a sense of "living for the moment," since who knew what the next hour or day or month might bring? Romance was in the air for the men who were heading off to war and for the women who were waiting at home for them.
My grandparents met in Washington, D.C., right as war was brewing, and when my grandfather joined up, they shared a pile of correspondence over the years that resonates with love, affection, uncertainty and longing. Bob and Edith are long gone, but their letters remain, a reflection of what so many young people experienced then, and a window into a time, a place and two people we never would have had otherwise — if they hadn't been forced by an ugly war to keep in touch through pen and paper and the occasional photograph.
I can't think of a better way to honor my grandfather this weekend than to pick up a book that reminds me of everything he and his brothers-in-arms fought for so many years ago.