Memorial Day: Wolfsong's Letter to Michael

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Rick Courtright

Mar 10, 2002
Redlands CA USA

As we begin another Memorial Day weekend, what with barbecues, family trips, the "unofficial" beginning of summer, and all those other things, it's always good to remember what this holiday is truly about. I have a few reminders of my own, but Wolfsong posted one several years ago that covers it all for me, and I know for some of you as well.

It's become sort of an unofficial tradition to repost this every year, and once again Wolfie's been gracious enough to allow me to do it this year. Many here remember it, and to some it may be new. So for you who are reading it for the first time, I've included a little bit of the introduction from the first time Wolfie posted it so you know where it comes from in his heart, and on to ours as well.

Please enjoy all the holiday has to offer in your own ways, public or personal, and however you do it, I hope you take a few moments to remember what the weekend's all about. For Wolfsong:

I wrote this post after listening to many people at work ( I work for the Dept. of Corrections at a women's prison) making their plans for the Memorial Day weekend. Many were complaining that the lakes, highways and campgrounds would be crowded, and I couldn't help thinking of our cemeteries crowded with our fallen soldiers. I didn't hear ONE person acknowledge or give mention of the price that so many have paid to allow them this "paid" holiday, and I thought "you selfish bastards". So I came home and wrote this tribute letter. It's kind of long, I hope you don't mind.

Peace and God bless, Wolfsong.


Michael, my brother, I'm thinking about you this Memorial Day weekend, as I think of you just about every day. You answered our country's call, and off to Viet Nam you went, to fight in a real war, with real guns and real bullets, while I was playing with my toy guns and wearing dad's old Army trench coat and campaign hat from the 101st Airborne. How I envied you and wished I was going off to fight with you, thinking that this is what brothers do. I was so sad when you left without me. I thought you didn't like me anymore and didn't want to play with me again. I didn't understand or even began to think that there was such a huge gap between 12 and 18. I didn't see it that way - you were my brother, we were both boys, and our dad was the man of the house.

I remember the times that you and I would watch the old World War II movies with dad, and how much us kids enjoyed the heroics of John Wayne and Audie Murphy. I remember how quiet dad was while we watched, but I didn't pay it much attention. I remember that after you left to go fight without me that dad stopped watching the news. Dad always watched the news. I didn't ask him why he stopped watching; actually I was happy, because that meant I didn't have to watch some old boring newscaster talking about stuff I couldn't understand. Now I know why he wouldn't watch. He did not want the reminder staring him in the face that you were in harm's way, doing your duty and serving our great country. I know he was proud of you, but I also know now that he was afraid.

Dad would never show his fear to us, of course. He was that old, tough Swede cattle rancher who was a walking God to us as we grew up. He could do no wrong, he could fix, build, heal, and do anything. And you and I both worshiped him. Little did I know that he was merely a man who held fear in his heart, a fear that was born when he jumped into Normandy on that June day in 1944 and a fear that continued to grow with each successive day that he spent fighting in that terrible war.

I suppose that he conquered that fear, if that is possible for a man to do, or at least he buried it deep down in some place that he never showed to us. Looking back, I see that his fear returned when you went off to fight. I see now that his fear consumed him, because it was a helpless fear, one that he could not overcome, because he was merely a spectator from far away, powerless to change it. But I didn't see that back then. I saw, instead, a father who grew quiet, and a brother who left me behind. I resented you both for a little while, but as young boys do, I found other friends and adventures to replace those things that were changed and lost to me.

It's not that I stopped loving you; after all, you were my brother. But I did resent you and your great adventure. For awhile, you still teased me in your letters from boot camp and training camp, but gradually the teasing stopped after you shipped out. You spoke instead of my responsibility to take your place as the protector of our sisters while you were gone. You spoke of my duty to help dad more and to be a good boy for mom. And then your letters didn't come any more.

I remember the day when dad told me the news that you had died in Viet Nam. It is the only time I saw dad cry. I tried not to cry, I tried to be strong for you and for dad, but I did cry, Mike. I cried for you and for dad. And for me, little selfish me, who was mad at you for leaving me behind once, and for leaving me behind again.

That was many years ago. Dad and mom are both gone, and I am the man of the family now. I often think of the lessons learned from you and dad. I still have the baseball glove that you bought me for my 12th birthday. A Willie Mays model. I guess you got tired of me always borrowing your glove, or maybe you figured that I had earned it. I'd like to think that I earned it, in your eyes.

I'd like to think that I have been a good protector for our sisters. I'd like to think that you and dad approve of what I've done with all that you both have taught me. I'd like to think of both of you as my heroes still. I'd like to think that you wished I was with you for at least one moment of one day back in 1969. I wished that I was there for that moment. Because I wanted to tell you one more time that I loved you, brother.

I know now how it feels to be helpless with fear, like dad was when you left. I know now what it feels like to be powerless to protect at all times those whom you love. I know now what it feels like to lose the life of one so close, and so young, and be powerless to prevent it. I know now what mom and dad felt when you came home wrapped in our flag. I didn't really know it then, I was so young. But now I know.

Most of all, I know the sacrifice that you and so many others have made for those of us who have never had to pick up a weapon and defend those who couldn't defend themselves, whether it was Americans, or Vietnamese, or Frenchmen or Englishmen. I know now that EVERY day should be a memorial to all of those who have fallen in service. I know that I miss you still, and I know that I cry for you, brother.

Monday, Memorial Day, I will fly each flag of our grandfather's, our father's and yours. I don't know if that is against protocol or not; I don't care. I am proud of all of you, I am proud to be your grandson, son, brother.

But I am most proud of you, Mike. You gave your life for so many. I cherish my memories of you, I salute your comrades, and I honor you and your fallen hero brothers and sisters. I should have done this a long, long time ago.

God bless you, brother. God bless all of those who have died for this great country. God bless all of those who defend us now. God bless America.

Peace and God bless, your brother.

Thanks to all who have given us what we take for granted, selflessly, and may your memories never fade,

Rick C


Dec 7, 2008
Wesley Chapel, Florida
Dang, What cures a lump in the throat?
As I read I thought about my little brother, now gone for almost 9 years (18 July 2008**) much too young at 60 1/2 years for the bad luck of his birth defects to catch up; My Mom gone now for 10 years; I am thankful she went before my little brother, her baby; then there's my Dad gone now not quite 20 years ago and thanks to the US Navy buried at sea, He read in the Bible that when Christ returns to earth he will call the dead from the seas first
So, Now there's me and my older brother, exactly 18 months older than me and I keep him in my heart always.

** Little brother was exactly 60 1/2 years old, born 18 Feb 1948, passed away 18 July 2008; Sad too as he was almost exactly 7 years younger than me, 27 Feb 1941, Older brother is 27 June 1939.


Jun 15, 2016
As Memorial Day approaches this one is worth another viewing.
Watch this short video and think back over the years. This is an incredibly great video.
It humbles you down to your toes. I will pass this to all I can; it is a fine tribute.


May 10, 2008
Mercer County, PA
1bdvet said:
As Memorial Day approaches this one is worth another viewing.
Watch this short video and think back over the years. This is an incredibly great video.
It humbles you down to your toes. I will pass this to all I can; it is a fine tribute.

Thank you!


Mar 27, 2003
Thanks to Jeff and Rick