I am three years old. We are careening around a twisty, two-laned mountain highway in eastern Tennessee. My Mother is white-knuckling the arm rest; and looking at her two little girls in the backseat. Why did I let my grandfather drive, she thinks to herself.
It was an unusual family trip; just the girls up to visit Grampy in the mountains. Daddy had stayed home to work; and we were off on an adventure. Every visit with Grampy was an adventure.
“What’s that mean?” I ask, pointing at a sign on the side of the road.
My sister and Mother are still clinging to the car for dear life; I am having a great time.
“Oh, it’s a sad story,” says Grampy, as he takes a hair-pin turn at 45mph.
“Well, there was a big, important Indian chief named White Eagle. He was very famous and very brave and everyone respected him very much.” He turned around to make sure I was listening. “He had a son who was also a brave warrior and they were very happy. One day, White Eagle and his son got into a big fight and his son ran away and has never come home. But White Eagle will never give up looking so that is why he puts the signs up everywhere around the mountains so that we can all help him look for his son, Falling Rock. Are you going to make sure you keep an eye out?”
‘WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK’ We pass another yellow, triangular sign.
“There’s another one!” I kept my eyes peeled for Falling Rock the rest of the journey.
My Great-Grandfather had been in France during WWI. He had fought in the trenches and saw many warriors who were lost, never to be found again.
On this day in 1918, we can only imagine what must have been going through his mind as he woke up, packed, and began marching back to the trenches to relief the last group of men. He must have felt a sense of dread or maybe just a feeling of acceptance; we’ll never know. Somewhere along the way, somewhere in the road, they heard the news; the unimaginable had happened. A cease-fire was called; it was over. It was over.
It wasn’t even noon.
My Great-Grandfather lived a long and full life; full of hard-work and happiness. He worked for Congress in Washington, DC and was at Arlington Cemetery for the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. My Grandmother, only a little girl at the time, stood next to him and held his hand as they sang “My Buddy”.
It is easy to forget the men who sacrificed so much and managed to be brave in such a scary time. Many of them came home. But many of them are buried here in France, in unmarked patches of earth, tombs that we will never know are there.
So today, I would like to remind you all to continue to keep an eye out for Falling Rock and other lost warriors. They are still missed and remembered.