There’s a lot I could write about today, especially after the Bulls loss to the Heat last Thursday, Scottie Pippen’s blasphemous remarks on Friday, and the Shox loss to Creighton in the MVC tournament. But none of that seems important, especially today.
I don’t remember much about my cousin John-John, as I was only a little over a year old when he died. But I felt his loss through the anguished voices of my parents, the uncontrollable tears of my sister, and the borderline hysteria of my entire family as we raced to Aunt Becka’s house. And I continue to feel his loss each time I come across an old family photo of my cousins or at a family gathering and John-John is inevitably brought to mind.
That’s John-John posing as QB. This photo was taken in 1959 and is one of a few featuring a promising young man, one of the eldest of our second generation, our future. It’s still hard to believe that eight years later, John-John was killed in Vietnam.
And while I don’t remember the sound of his voice, his favorite food or favorite baseball player, I can recall how his death changed a family. When a child dies, a light goes out in a family. Forever.
Twelve years ago, I traveled with my parents to D.C to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. While John-John was buried in Wichita, I felt it my duty to visit The Wall for John-John, as well as the others. I was trembling as we approached the area, my hands shaking as we searched the book to locate the panel bearing his name, and my heart racing as we passed families, friends, and soldiers all doing the same thing we came to do, pay our respects.
After I took this photo, I ran my fingers across his name and cried. I cried because he gave his life too soon, so unselfishly. And I cried because the only memories of John-John I have rest within the creased pages of family photo albums and the blurry home movie of him dancing in the living room with my sister, his back constantly to the camera as he glides to the silent music.
So on Memorial Day, while we remember all who have passed away, John-John whispers into each of our hearts to remember him and all those who gave their lives for our country. He was young, too young, voluntarily enlisting at the age of seventeen, but his memory lies deep in the blood of the family he left behind.
Thank you, John-John. And tell those who rest with you, we will not forget.
*To read other messages to John Allen Graber, Jr, click on his name.