“A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day,” is a newly released book by children’s author Leah Henderson. The phrase, “a day for rememberin’”– just about says it all about the holiday we observe at the end of May each year. How many of us mark that day remembering what we’re asked to, and how many are even aware of the intention of the holiday?
This new addition to A.K. Smiley Public Library’s Young Readers’ Room will help new readers—and older ones—learn about the history of the day and why it’s important to observe it. Memorial Day is designated as a day to remember the countless number of our neighbors, friends, and relatives throughout history who have given up their lives in duty to their country while serving in the military.
Henderson’s inspiring account is of one of the first commemorations of Memorial Day — on May 1, 1865. She encountered the story through a photograph of a gathering for Decoration Day, as it was initially named. She tells it through the eyes of Eli, the 10-year-old son of a formerly enslaved man, who, with his family, is moved to honor those who had given their lives fighting for the freedom of his community in the conflict which had divided the United States.
The War Between the States is featured in another new addition to the Library, “The Black Civil War Soldier: a Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship.” Author Deborah Willis honors this often unrecognized group of Civil War soldiers using the medium of photography, the use of which was beginning to become widespread during the mid-1800s. Willis showcases a collection of portraits and personal ephemera exploring the lives of the Black Union soldiers, as well as those of other African Americans aiding in the struggle, from family members left behind to female spies, ultimately revealing their remarkable resilience.
Besides the volumes inspired by photographs and letters, authors have also conducted interviews with soldiers in some of our new books. Bestseller “Modern Warriors: Real Stories from Real Heroes” is an offering by FOX & Friends Weekend cohost Pete Hegseth. His is a collection of stirring narratives from fifteen individuals, including decorated Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, marines, Purple Heart recipients, combat pilots, a Medal of Honor recipient, and more.
From bestselling novelist James Patterson is the non-fiction volume, “Walk in My Combat Boots: True Stories from America’s Bravest Warriors.” Patterson and his team spoke with veterans of the Vietnam, Gulf, and Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Among other experiences, each relays how they dealt with threats of sudden death from snipers and improvised explosive devices, and how a majority of them suffer degrees of post-traumatic stress.
Of course Memorial Day is really about the soldiers who are not able to tell us their stories, the ones who didn’t make it home to us. The following two books get as close as we can to knowing them, through those who knew them best, their families. “Three Wise Men: a Navy Seal, a Green Beret, and How their Marine Brother Became a War’s Sole Survivor,” is written by brother Beau Wise (with Tom Sileo), a United States Marine Corps combat veteran who is the only known American service member to be pulled from the battlefield after losing two brothers in Afghanistan.
“Sacrifice: a Gold Star Widow’s Fight for the Truth” is a poignant memoir by Michelle Richmond Black who details her grief in becoming a gold-star widow. After losing her Green Beret husband, Bryan Black, when he died fighting the Islamic State in Niger in 2017, Michelle Black went looking for answers. Given few details about her husband’s death, Black conducted exclusive interviews with the survivors of her husband’s unit and delved into research of military leadership and accountability to learn what happened to him that final day and, finally, to know and understand his full sacrifice.
Here is a list of additional current titles available at the Library remembering soldiers. Pick one up to peruse and take “a day for rememberin’” the soldier’s sacrifice — the ultimate sacrifice, for fellow soldier, for country, and for each of us.
- The Greatest Beer Run Ever: a Memoir of Friendship, Loyalty, and War
- Ghost Flames: Life and Death in a Hidden War, Korea 1950-1953
- I Marched with Patton: a Firsthand Account of World War II alongside One of the U.S. Army’s Greatest Generals
- Facing the Mountain: a True Story of Japanese American Heroes in World War II
- Inferno: the True Story of a B-17 Gunner’s Heroism and the Bloodiest Military Campaign in Aviation History
- Whatever It Took: an American Paratrooper’s Extraordinary Memoir of Escape, Survival, and Heroism in the Last Days of World War II
- The York Patrol: the Real Story of Alvin York and the Unsung Heroes Who Made Him World War I’s Most Famous Soldier
- A Thousand May Fall: Life, Death, and Survival in the Union Army (an account of German immigrant soldiers)