Well, THAT hit me a little harder than I thought it would.

My family lost our last World War II vet this week. “Uncle Jim” was my only uncle on my mother’s side of the family, so he kept that childhood title for me all the way to the end, which came this week in Dallas at the ripe old age of 94. Jim met my Mom’s sister when they were in the Navy together in the war. Yes kids, there WERE female WWII vets as well, and my Aunt served in the WAVES. One of the points of levity through sadness a few years ago when my aunt passed was Uncle Jim giggling through the story of how they’d acquired their plots many years ago – a new cemetery opened up and they were offering choice-location sites, free to Veterans. Not a bad plan, since the cemetery people assumed each free one they gave would produce a cash sale for the wife who’d want to be buried with her husband. Jim enjoyed telling the story of producing HIS documentation, then when the sales fellow was ready to go for the cash sale, producing my Aunt’s proof of status as well, scoring two beautiful, prime sites for their final resting places … free. Jim will claim his side of their final home this Monday, and I need to be there both because I loved him and my Aunt dearly, and because I adore my two cousins who’ve always been there for me when I’ve suffered loss.

We just got back from burying my Father-In-Law this month up in Northern Wisconsin – a proud World War II Navy guy who could still recite the specs for every torpedo he handled and ship he sailed. We’ll say goodbye to another proud member of the Greatest Generation this Monday. And for my family, the people who remember a time when the issues were clear-cut, the cause was just and the nation pulled together and made the sacrifices needed to create a safer world for all of us are all gone. If you’re blessed with a member of that Greatest Generation who’s still with you, hold them dear. Thank them for their service. And thank them for making the world a better place for all of us.

And take them out for the fireworks this year if they’re willing to stay up that late. They may carp about the crowds, the noise and the late hours, but you’ll see a tear and a sense of pride, too.