Paul Hodes: Honoring My Namesake

As a member of congress, It was both obligatory and an honor to attend Memorial Day celebrations in my district.

In New Hampshire, we have a beautiful Veteran’s cemetary and events are well attended.  Often sitting in bright sunshine, sometimes in a late spring cloudy chill under a blanket, the World War II veterans who were residents at the nearby Veterans Home were always given front row seats. Many were in wheelchairs, some required constant attendance. Some came in uniform and some just came.  

Having never experienced the horror of war myself, I sometimes struggled to convey my deep gratitude to thank those who served and died for their country.  At first, it was intimidating to be in the company of so many former and present military personnel. 

I later became comfortable with my role and theirs. I always tried to say something different and meaningful, something that went beyond the ritualistic expressions of gratitude. After a time, I came to appreciate the rituals and the importance of the repetition of those ritualistic expressions. But, here’s something I never talked about and I don’t know why.

I was named for a distant cousin. When I was a child my grandparents told me that Paul was a sweet, brilliant, handsome man destined for greatness. He died during World War II flying a combat mission. I carry his name and his legacy. He died in service to his country as did so many others.

So, on this Memorial Day, I am honored to remember him and thank him for his service and his sacrifice.

Cousin Paul, I thank you for your life, your service and your name. My own service, of a different kind, is the living proof that you did not die in vain. This great country with all its greatness and its flaws, endures thanks to you.

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