The Gifts That Gave Nearly Everything Keep Giving

May 22, 2009 at 10:27 pm 2 comments

My own generation skipped war. Sure, we were consumed with it, in history classes, and in endless re-runs of “Tora, Tora, Tora”. We came incredibly close to it; I have older cousins who served in Vietnam. And now we watch it on TV; we read soldiers’ blogs from Iraq. Many of us – my high school and college pals – have lived close to war, but never really lived with it.

A statue at the Korean War Memorial

A statue at the Korean War Memorial

Right now, on the desk next this keyboard, are two small mementos that did live through war. Small scraps of aluminum that have seen the world’s best and worst events. Lightweight trinkets that bore the weight of incredible men through remarkable times. These dog tags — my father’s and grandfather’s — are as close as I’ve been to war.

These were a Christmas gift from my Father this past year. I don’t really know what to do with them. And I can’t stop thinking of them, especially approaching Memorial Day. These gifts gave nearly everything in their duty, identifying men who served in battles to keep America “Land of the Free.” I want to make them a bigger part of my life, in tribute to these great individuals and to the time in history. (Even Civil War soldiers used identifying tags).

Thought about wearing them around my neck on a chain, but I’m not a jewelry guy. Perhaps they could go on a key ring? Or they could hang from the car’s rear view mirror?

Yeah, right. So these mini war monuments should sit in my pocket, with empty gum wrappers and lint. Or hang in the car as I pump gas or sit in the drive-thru line at In-n-Out. Hardly fitting memorials.

What would be fitting? Mount them in a glass case perched atop the fireplace mantel? That would be a nice dust collector (need more of those in this house) but these tags need to be accessible; they are amazing to touch and hold. Besides, they’re not fragile.

I wondered at the time why my Dad gave these to me for Christmas. He’s still alive — doing well — and I thought they were a bit too personal, even to give to your son. And I didn’t ask why. I just accepted them with humility, honored as much by the thought behind the gift as by the dog tags themselves.

I still don’t know what to do with them. They stare back at me from the desk as I write this. For nearly five months now I’ve come across these seemingly humble objects. Each time I see them I think about their rightful place in my life and in my home.

And that’s it. I think about them. I think about owning them, knowing them, holding them. And I will continue to think about them. Forever. Happy Memorial Day Wayne, and Magnus. I love you.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tim Erickson  |  May 22, 2009 at 11:14 pm


    The thoughts you have of those men in your family who gave humble service and the honor you just bestowed them in this magnificient tribute are proof those tags are where they belong; in your heart more than in a physical place. Thanks for sharing.

  • 2. dennis  |  May 30, 2009 at 2:00 am

    We have, in a cabinet filled with part of our oddball collection of strange stuff, my late grandfather-in-law’s Purple Heart. We keep it on a low shelf so that our daughter can get in there, pull it out and play with it. Each time she does, my wife tells Addie all about her great grandfather and how he got that medal. This has always seemed like the most fitting thing to do with that Purple Heart.
    thanks for sharing this.


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