As Memorial Day graces May’s calendar, the veterans stand one behind the other in column upon column. As far as one’s eyes can see, the solemnity of the occasion beckons one to appreciate the service of these men and women. Many of the veterans have spouses right near them to accompany them on their journey to eternity. Sacrifices made…destinies, perhaps, altered…lifetimes influenced. In the distance, rifles volley to send out tributes and one final salute. All are at peace in this serene and soothing burial place.
Indiantown Gap National Cemetery rests in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania. Nearby is an Army complex that holds a history of training young men and women for service in U.S. Army. It was at this complex in 1942 that my father, Edward Joseph Slabik, came at the age of 17 to train in the Army Air Force. Young men could enlist for duty at the age of 18, but my dad had “fudged” his birth date by a few months. About three years later, he would return here to be honorably discharged…on to begin a different life at the age of 21. At that moment, he did not think that one day a part of him would stay here forever.
In time, he married my mom, Merna Mae Storer, who became his wartime sweetheart. They raised their family, retired, grew old together. In planning for the end of their earthly lives, they decided to be buried at Indiantown Gap. They had driven there one day to inquire about a place for them. They were struck by the serenity and care of the grounds. This was where they would rest.
When one visits there, one is struck by all the names. One cannot help wonder what stories could be told, cherished, and remembered. Tears will be shed, and hearts will sigh. Day is done, gone the sun…safely rest…God is nigh…go to sleep…peaceful sleep.