Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Tomorrow is Memorial Day and for many, it’s just a day off from work; a day observed on a Monday so that we can have a three-day weekend. But for millions of people, it’s a day that means so much more.
While the day was first unofficially observed following the Civil War, it took on a whole new meaning in the 20th century, after World War I, “the war to end all wars,” and World War II. However, as distance continues to grow between the present and the second world war, it seems that so too does the meaning of Memorial Day.
Millions of Americans were sent overseas to fight a terrible evil and rescue Europe from the clutches of Adolph Hitler. (And to prevent him from setting his sights on America.) Among those millions were two men related to my father, his uncle Charles Hopkins and his cousin Leslie Cooper, to whom Charles referred as “Junior.” Both hailed from Scranton, Pa.
I don’t know when or where he was shot down, but Leslie Cooper was part of a B-17 crew and was killed in action. My Aunt Bonnie — my dad’s aunt — spoke highly of Leslie, but to me as a child, he was just a picture on the wall. Charles Hopkins saw plenty of action on the ground and made it home, living in Scranton until 1986.
The following are some letters he sent via armed forces “V Mail” to my dad, “Billy,” my uncle Bobby and Charles’ brother, my grandfather. The letters are short and arrived on paper not much larger than a post card. They contain mostly responses to things mentioned in letters to him, but there are also some interesting observations.
June 16, 1944, Somewhere in Corsica:
“Dear Brother Bill,
“I sure was pleased to receive your swell letter of June first and hope this letter finds you, Lil, and the boys in the best of health. I am glad to hear you and the boys are pleased with your new home. I guess your yard must be pretty hard digging from what you say. There is some pretty hard ground over in these parts. If I ever see one of those paintings in my travels I will try and get one. If you had only mentioned it when I was in Sicily I think I could have got one dirt cheap. I am feeling the best and enjoyed my birthday. Hoping you also had a fine birthday. Give my love to mother and dad. Will write again soon so until then so long, good luck, health and plenty love to you, Lil and the boys.”