Several weeks ago my son, Joel, told me he had me a Christmas gift that was something I did not need, had never wanted, but would love having.
Since he had been using my computer and the covers are wearing out on the keyboard, all I could think of was new covers for the keys. But that would not work since that is something I need.
I guessed and guessed until Joel told me to give up because I would never guess it. He was right.
When he, Anne and the children, Grace and Joseph, arrived, Anne carefully slid a thin, gift-wrapped package behind a curio cabinet. She remarked it needed to stay there until we opened packages so it would not get bent.
I peeked. It was for me. My imagination went wild. Was it a family picture? No, if that was the case it would be framed.
Then I started playing with Grace making a silly game of it. Was it a kitten? Was it a lamp? Was it a pair of shoes? Etc., etc., etc.
When she got tired of the game she told me I would never guess what it was. Then she added, “You will not like it, You will LOVE it.” That settled that.
Over the years, my niece, Jerelyn Miranda, and my daughter, Cindy Cline, have spent hours researching our family genealogy. Now they have gotten Joel interested, too.
A while back, Jerelyn had emailed me about information she had discovered from her online search of the cemetery in Gibson, where many of my father’s family members are buried.
One was a cemetery marker for my first cousin, Math L. English. I never remember seeing him since he was killed in World War II when I was 2 or 3 years old.
But her discovery of that tombstone triggered old memories.
My dad called his nephew M. L. When Pop would talk about him he said that M. L. went down on a plane in the South Pacific during battle and the bodies of those on board were never recovered.
It caused me to wonder if the cemetery in Gibson is where his remains really are or is that marker just a memorial to him.
When I opened Joel’s gift, I got the answer to that question. He had written to the American Battle Monuments Commission in Arlington, Va., requesting information about 1st Lt. Math L. English.
In return he had received a beautiful panoramic picture of the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial at Fort Bonifacio in the Philippines. Accompanying it was a book, “Manila American Cemetery and Memorial.”
It shows pictures of some of the 17,097 headstones marking the graves of some of those who died fighting for our country. Many of them are remains brought from areas where they had been temporarily buried until the war ended.
More than 13,000 of the fallen warriors are identified. On the crosses of those not identified was written, “Here rests in honored glory A Comrade in Arms known but to God.”
But the information Joel was seeking came from the memorial area which honors those whose bodies were never recovered. Inscribed there is, “In Proud Remembrance of the Achievements of Her Sons And In Humble Tribute To Their Sacrifices This Memorial Has Been Erected by the United States of America.”
Listed there is, “Math L. English 1 LT 822 BOMB SQ 19 BOMB 38 BOMB GP (M) GEORGIA.”
Included with the picture and the book was an order form. It took me a few minutes to realize what it was. Joel has made arrangements on Memorial Day for flowers to be placed on the wall where my cousin’s name is listed.
That was what warmed my heart. Now, I feel a kinship to and admiration for a cousin I have never known. Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
Grace was right about the gift she and her family gave me. I do not just like it. I love it.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.