Memorial Day by Michele Drier

This Memorial Day, my youngest niece will be in Washington, D.C. getting an orientation to NOAA.  She’s thrilled to have won NOAA scholarships and internships for her last two years of college.

Her mom suggested that she go to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day itself, to watch the ceremonies.

We’re a pacifist family, but all of us support and relate to the individuals, and their families, who have fought and lost their lives in the military.

My niece is 20, so she’s spent half her life hearing about the wars we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As an early Baby Boomer, I saw the Korean War in newsreels before the Saturday movie matinee.  Then, I watched the Vietnam War unfold on my television while eating dinner.  And when I saw the memorial wall on a visit toWashington, I was overcome.

I’m not sure most people actually remember that these were individual young men.  Many of them weren’t old enough to legally drink when they were killed.

But when I think of the military, I think of the 19- and 20- and 21-year olds—boys, really—who fought in the Second World War.

I don’t remember it first-hand, but I learned about it second-hand, from a man I married who was a Holocaust survivor.  He was older than me, a German Jew who’d been sent to an orphanage in France by his parents after Kristallnacht.  Because of this, he was the only member of his family to survive.

And through him, I met people in the U.S.and Europe who had also survived, many of them with numbers still tattooed on their arms.  They were from Germany, Poland, Hungary, France, Belgium and had one thing in common; they were Jewish.

That’s when I began to realize that the Second World War, or any war, wasn’t an abstract idea of troop movements and weaponry, but a massive fear and displacement of individuals.

On June 5, 1998, I was driving along the coast of Normandy with my daughter, headed for Amsterdam, when we saw a convoy of Army jeeps.  We pulled over and realized we were standing on the French coastline above one of theNormandybeaches.  The German bunkers were still entrenched, overlooking the Channel.  Miles and miles of rusting fortifications and ships poked up from the shallow waves.  Standing at the cliff’s edge in a fine drizzle, we tried to imagine what it must have been like more than 50 years ago when the landing force of young men looked up at those cliffs.

The survivors of that force, plus hundreds of thousands more young men, fought their way through France and into Germany over the next 10 months and the fate of European Jews and the fate of hundreds of young GIs came together with stunning clarity at Dachau Concentration Camp on April 29, 1945.  That day, the American troops liberated their first German concentration camp and saw the horror the Nazis had inflicted on innocent people.

My mystery, Edited for Death, is contemporary, but World War II is the backdrop for three murders in a small town in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills in 2006.  And the liberation of Dachau plays a pivotal role when a young and drifting American soldier finds himself facing the true definition of war.

I hope my niece makes it to Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. And I know she’ll remember the individual young men her age who were never able to get any older.

For me, I’ll remember the generation of 20-year-olds, and the millions of innocents, who met in spring of 1945 and changed the world for the better.


Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian.  She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism — as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers – she won awards for producing investigative series.

Her mystery Edited for Death, called “Riveting and much recommended” by the Midwest Book Review and a Memorable Book for 2011 on Dorothy L, is available in paperback at Amazon and B&N.

Her paranormal romance series, SNAP: The Kandesky vampire chronicles, is available in ebook at Amazon.  The first book, SNAP: The World Unfolds, received a 4-star rating from the Paranormal Romance Guild.  The second book, SNAP: New Talent, is now published and also available from Amazon

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