I have never met him.
He is my step-father's best friend and he was killed in Vietnam in 1967.
Today, as he does a couple of times a year, dad wanted to make the hour long drive down to Dansville to visit Louie's grave. As always, he takes someone with him. Up until today, I had never gone. When he asked me if I would like to go I readily agreed. It would be good to get the chance to spend time together, but at the same time I also understood the unspoken responsibility of accompanying him on this journey.
After we stopped for lunch we drove to the cemetery and after winding our way around we arrived. I got out of the car and looked around. Rows and rows of flags dotted the landscape. Dad had already set to work doing some minor maintenance to the plaque that sits below the headstone. I casually snapped some photos.
Once he had finished, dad stood up, put his tools away and walked back over to the grave. I stood there with him for a moment and put my hand on his shoulder. His voice cracked as he said, "He shouldn't be here."
Forty-six years later the pain was still able to push its way to the surface. If only briefly.
After a few minutes, we hugged, he thanked me for coming with him, and we drove home.
So, before you fire up the grill, crack open a beer, or go spend money at some sales event, remember...
This, is Memorial Day...