Today was a day I will not forget. I spent the morning at Toledo Memorial Park Cemetery observing volunteers who had a personal connection to a war veteran or were a veteran decorate the graves of deceased veterans with American flags.
I didn’t take any photos. It just seemed like a time to be quiet and stand back. Izzy Ortiz, a Marine who served in Vietnam, coordinates the placing of the flags for his team of 15. During the activity he spoke about how everyone has some connection to a veteran. I immediately told him that my family is from Sicily and no one served in the American military.
But as soon as those sentences left my mouth I realized that one of my uncles did serve in the American military after my father’s family moved to the United States. He was stationed for about a year or so in Alaska. And then I remembered that my great uncle served in World War II for the Italian army.
The last time I saw my great uncle, zio Nino, alive he told me how he had to travel back home to Sicily by foot. I’m sure he took a train or two here and there, but it was a journey for him. I can’t remember what country he was in when he found out that the war was over. I do remember that there wasn’t a coordinated effort to get him home. And back then planes were not convenient, especially for a poor soldier. I know there was a story tied to this, and I wish I recorded it. I always thought, “next time I’m in Sicily I will get the whole story.” But unfortunately there isn’t a next time. He passed away in August.
So that brings me to Miss Poppy, 3-year-old Natalie Wuwert of Toledo. She was at this week's Sylvania City Council meeting. Mayor Craig Stough introduced her, and proclaimed May 24 National Poppy Day. It is a tradition to wear the striking red poppy as a symbol of remembrance for a war veteran. Those who participate in Memorial Day parades and commemorative activities also wear the poppy.
Before writing this post I thought it would be about reminding my readers to support a war hero in their family. I realize now that the red poppy also applies to me. In this case I should do as I write, and visit Miss Poppy at Barry Bagels, 4024 N. Holland-Sylvania Road from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. That is where volunteers of the American Legion Joseph W. Diehn Post 468 and Miss Poppy will be handing out the handmade flower for free. Donations that are made to the American Legion go towards the veterans in need.
So Mr. Ortiz thank you for helping me remember a veteran today.