Veteran’s passing reminds us of something greater

Death always brings a measure of sadness, but it seems almost appropriate that Mr. Paul Gresham, one of Demopolis’ most respected veterans, passed away on the eve of Memorial Day weekend. He died of heart complications Friday morning, leaving the rest of us with various memories of his profound patriotism and love for God and country.

Many a Demopolis High School student, past and present, will recall his Veterans’ Day presentations when he talked about, not in great detail, his experiences at Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge.

Members of Fairhaven Baptist Church will reflect on his years of dedicated service to that congregation, and his deep love for his wife who passed away several years earlier.

Personally, I’ll never forget watching one Sunday morning as Mr. Gresham carried the American Flag down the aisle at the beginning of a patriotic service. He did so proudly, and had more than earned the right.

One Sunday night after church several years ago, Mr. Paul told me a little bit about D-Day. Just a lad at the time, he was supposed to go in with the first wave, but his landing craft struck a mine that damaged the rudder. His company had to load onto another troop carrier, and went in with the second wave. Still, the Americans were pinned on the beach when his unit went ashore, and most of us have an inkling – just an inkling – of what he encountered there.

But Mr. Gresham would be the first to tell us that this column, this holiday, shouldn’t be about him. He would want the attention deflected to those friends of his, and thousands upon thousands of others, who went to Europe, or the Pacific, or scores of other places before and since, who did not come back to share with high school students, to be a loving husband and father, to be a faithful church member, to carry that flag down the aisle.

He would want us to remember that they purchased this – frankly – easy life we enjoy today. He would want us to carry on the fight to protect those freedoms they bought with blood. And he would want us to take a moment this weekend, and year round, to say thank you to those veterans of all wars who are still among us, and their families…let’s not forget the families.

Mr. Paul understood, perhaps better than most, what this weekend is all about. Today, we salute him and his millions of brothers in arms.