One of my fondest memories was coming up to Boston to visit all of my relatives (yes I had 8 aunts and uncles!) in the summer. Even as a kid I loved the food (my Aunt Marie would have 5 courses minimum) and the stories. Yes, the stories.
Uncle Johnny will forever be a part of our lives through those stories. I know he will forever be a part of my life.
Especially on D-Day.
What do I remember most when I think of Uncle Johnny?
First, I remember Johnny as a man of freedom. He didn’t talk much about the war but I know that it did impact his entire life. He was drafted at age 18 into the Army during WW II and served in the Infantry. On D-Day, June 6, 1944, he was bound for the coast of France in an LCI, Landing Craft Infantry, and was one of the last troops to descend into the waters at the beach at Normandy when he was struck by an enemy bullet in the left arm which caused him to fall backward into the LCI. He received the Purple Heart Medal for his battle incurred injury and returned to Cambridge and Family. He lived the Purple Heart and Medal of Bravery everyday even though we didn’t find the medals and the stories until after he died. I thank Uncle Johnny for our freedom today.
Second, I remember a man of Faith. Yes, of course with his passion for the Patriots and Red Sox, having faith was required! But I do remember his faith is His God. Uncle Johnny was part of the knights of Lithuania. Uncle Johnny believed in His God but acted with God’s characteristics. He used to give us kids change to go down to the corner store to buy candy, and even reward us with Silver Dollars. He showed us his faith.
Third, I remember Uncle Johnny as a man of Family. My mom tells a story where Uncle Johnny brought home chocolates from his work for the family. (Of course, mom always took the orange inside!) Auntie Helen always told me he was a great Big brother – throughout his life. He worked to support the family while Auntie Anna took care of their mother. And did you know that he took me to lunch almost weekly while I was at Harvard and he walked to meet me? He and Anna had me over for every holiday that I couldn’t go home. He was my family in Boston. He never forgot a birthday or Christmas. And he always wrote us postcards from his trips – even if he did memorize the inscription! And when my kids came, he loved them too. Because they were family.
There is a saying that goes “tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” Uncle Johnny will live in my heart forever. He will live in my kids hearts forever. And I know he will live in your hearts forever. Uncle Johnny was a person of character, humble and respectful of each person’s dignity. He was never boastful nor do I recall him bragging of anything, including his purple heart and medal for bravery. He was a Man of Faith, Family and Freedom.