By Robert Humphries
This long weekend many people across America will be celebrating the start of summer with cookouts, concerts and even fireworks. Amidst the festivities, it’s easy to forget why we celebrate Memorial Day, which began shortly after the Civil War. On Decoration Day, as it was then called, families of those who had fallen in battle decorated the graves of their loved ones with flowers. Today the tradition continues with flags planted at the graves of service members. Drive around the valleys of southwestern Wisconsin this weekend and you’ll notice even small, seemingly forgotten graveyards by the wayside brightened with red, white and blue.
Unity Chapel cemetery, Wyoming, Wisconsin.
One such cemetery is at Unity Chapel, a small Unitarian church about 15 miles north of Dodgeville, built by Welsh immigrants in 1886. It’s a place with special significance for my family. My wife Jenafer and I were married there, and many of her ancestors rest in the lovingly tended churchyard. Among the stones is a plaque commemorating Jenafer’s grandfather, Enos David Lloyd-Jones, who preferred to be known simply as “Bud.” He would be almost 98 years old today.
Enos David "Bud" Lloyd-Jones
Bud grew up in Mason City, Iowa. We have a few of his favorite childhood books, as well as pictures of him playing with his brother and sister, and dressed in his Boy Scout uniform. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he met his wife, Barbara. They married in 1943, shortly after they graduated. By this time, war raged in Europe and the Pacific. Bud was already enlisted in the United States Army, and wore his uniform to the ceremony. Within the year, Bud and Barbara had a son, my father-in-law, Dave. But duty called and Bud returned to his post in the Fifth Infantry Division. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in January, 1944.
The US Fifth Infantry Division near Chartres, August, 1944.
In July 1944, Bud’s unit landed in Normandy and battled its way through northern France. Through towns, fields, and woods the fighting was relentless. Forging a path east, they liberated Angers, Chartres, Amanvillers and Vernéville. Then came Metz. The official history of his regiment gives the following, terse account of the morning of September 13, 1944:
At 0630 the following day, Company K with one platoon of medium tanks, attempted to attack across the open ground in full view of the enemy, but it was found the enemy’s heavy fires could not be coped with, so the original positions were maintained …
At some point during this advance, First Lieutenant Lloyd-Jones was killed instantly by a land mine—which saved the lives of the men he was leading. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and the Purple Heart, and was buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France, a fact duly noted on the plaque attached to his parents’ gravestone at Unity Chapel.
Lorraine American Cemetery, Saint-Avold, France. Image courtesy Buncy Jeffrey.
Bud’s son Dave grew up without a father, and my wife and her brother never knew their grandfather. Bud never got a chance to raise a family and watch his grandchildren grow up. Were it not for that fateful day, he might well have lived to meet his great-grandchildren. At family reunions over the years, we have often felt Bud’s absence, even those of us who never knew him.
I, for one, am humbled by Bud’s sacrifice—one he willingly made—as well as the hardships he and other service members in our family have endured. The worst enemy I have to face is the legion of mosquitoes buzzing around the Unity Chapel graveyard on a muggy spring day. I cannot imagine the constant terror of war, of not knowing whether the next step you take will be your last. I can only hope that his loss is part of a longer arc of history that will one day bring us to a place where such sacrifices are unnecessary.
The US Fifth Infantry Division in action, France, 1944.
Of course, Bud’s story is but one of thousands, and countless men and women have died in military service since the Second World War. As a federal holiday, Memorial Day may kick-start summer for most of us, but it’s important not to lose sight of its true meaning, and take a moment to reflect and remember.
On Memorial Day and every day, we remember you, Bud. Thank you and God bless.
Robert Humphries is a writer at Lands' End Business.