Memorial Day: A Tribute to My Father

This article, in a slightly edited form, first appeared on Pain News Network on May 30, 2020.


When I was a little boy, we planted roses, geraniums, chrysanthemums, and tulips at the graveside of my grandparents every Memorial Day. In the beginning, we only had my maternal grandfather’s and paternal grandmother’s graves to decorate. Since they were about 100 miles apart, decorating their graves was a full-day event. It was a ritual that most of the immediate family participated in. Over the years, the number of graves grew, and the number of graveyard decorators dwindled.

People have used flowers to decorate grave sites for thousands of years. It is not clear when or why the practice first started. For my family, adorning graves with flowers was a way to remember and honor the people we loved and missed.

Nationally, Memorial Day is also when we recognize the men and women who have served our country in the military.

My Father Was Willing to Make the Ultimate Sacrifice

My father risked his life, but it was not because of his patriotism (although he dearly loved our country). He was one of those people we recognize on Memorial Day — and, hopefully, every day — for his heroism as a Marine, father, and grandfather. During World War II, he served in the South Pacific.

We frequently hear that members of the military have sacrificed their lives for their country, but that is not the primary reason my father risked his life. My father was part of the Greatest Generation. Of course, he was a proud American, but he often said he was willing to give his life for his buddies. He fought for his “brothers, ” just as depicted in the 2001 film, “Band of Brothers.” Patriotism was a background element.

My dad did not always know the reasons for his military missions. He spent his time in the Pacific Theater of Operations as part of the military police. He participated in the Bismarck Archipelago Operation, the consolidation of the northern Solomon Island’s poka-yoke defense, and the capture and occupation of Guam and Marianas Islands.

I’m proud of my dad’s commitment to his fellow warriors and the country. He’s part of the great American history we must always remember.

At War With a New Foe

Today, we battle a new enemy that is no more, and no less, difficult than prior foes. We ultimately may win the war against the coronavirus, but we are not meeting each battle with the same resolve that members of the Greatest Generation did.

Lack of a national plan and widespread disregard of our scientists’ recommendations suggest we are not meeting this threat the same way we arose to the occasion in previous wars.

Maybe it is because we don’t have the same willingness to sacrifice for our fellow citizens as those who came before us did. I don’t know for certain.

But the coronavirus is a formidable foe. It has already caused more American deaths than we suffered in the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars combined.

On Memorial Day weekend, my family joined Americans from coast to coast in honoring United States military heroes and their contributions. We also remembered the family members whom we cherished, but who are no longer among us.

Lessons We Can Learn From the Greatest Generation

The Greatest Generation modeled self-sacrifice, and doing the right things for the right reasons. We have the freedoms we enjoy today because of their selfless actions.

We can’t know for certain what members of the Greatest Generation would say about our response to the pandemic we are now living through, because scarcely any of them are here to tell us. However, I am certain they would tell us that we will get through this if we care enough about each other. We can come out of this as a better, stronger nation. Putting the welfare of others ahead of our own needs worked before. Why wouldn’t it work again?

So, during this Memorial Week, I recognize my father for the sacrifices he made for the country, his buddies, and his family. Thank you, Dad, for your service.

My father, Roger L. Webster









My father,
Raymond L. Webster


Lynn R. Webster, MD, is a vice president of scientific affairs for PRA Health Sciences and consults with the pharmaceutical industry. He is author of the award-winning book, The Painful Truth,” and co-producer of the documentary,It Hurts Until You Die.” Opinions expressed here are those of the author alone and do not reflect the views or policy of PRA Health Sciences.

You can find him on Twitter: @LynnRWebsterMD.





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