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27 May 2024

The fallen we remember today most likely may happen to be the people we remembered last year or a few years ago or, maybe, even 80 years ago if we're that old. It's one case in which repetition is not redundant.

In our case, we are again remembering cousin Freddie. We don't need a new reason but we have one.

Going through the family photographs piled in the closet at the house we are clearing to sell, we found a rare image* of him with his niece and nephew. It was among our grandparents' artifacts.

He must have come home on leave during World War II. Linda was probably too young to understand what all the fuss was about but Jackie had the arm band and the helmet to show he knew what his uncle was up to.

A few years ago, Jackie went to France to visit the town where Freddie died. He brought along a framed photo of his uncle. And when I wrote about Freddie's life for the family tree I put online, Jackie called me to thank me and tell me about his trip.

He had gone to France for the 70th anniversary of D-Day and brought a framed copy of the same photo of Freddie I had published in my 2017 Memorial Day story. He gave it to a Frenchman who spoke English at the memorial site on the beach.

Afterwards, he went to a little French bar where people had written on the walls honoring the soldiers who saved them from the Germans back then. He asked if he could write something for Freddie and they said he certainly could.

We told him he's just given us a good excuse to visit every bar in France. Research. He laughed.

Freddie is buried in the Italian cemetery in Colma, Calif. In addition to our 2017 Memorial Day piece, we presented a video clip from a Smithsonian documentary showing him shortly before he was killed in action in France.

We never knew him, coming into the picture years later, but we know how much he mattered to the people we care about. And somehow that makes us care for him as if we did know him.

And to remember him as if we had never forgotten.

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