The 1st line of my story about Mr. Floyd Wigfield references “history books” and “movies and television.”
History wasn’t my strong suit when I was in school. I am so bad at remembering dates, and most of the history books I carried around in school were just weight to me, because I didn’t like memorizing stuff just for the sake of memorizing stuff. That’s what history classes always felt like to me: a list of things to remember for the sake of remembering.
And generally, as a rule, if I’m watching a movie or show with historical roots, I like them to be period-piece romances. You know. French court. Mary, Queen of Scots. Jane Austen’s England. Anything with corsets. I’m a sucker for a good corset.
But when it comes to movies and shows about war, that’s when I’m out of my element.
I don’t really watch movies or shows about war. I usually avoid movies or shows that are violent, and war tends to fall into that category.
Being a 25-year-old woman, my connection with events like World War 2 is slim.
I passed that unit in AP U.S. History. That’s really where the familiarity with it ends.
When I headed up to Cumberland to talk to Mr. Wigfield last week, I thought about that on my drive. I purposely choose not to consume content about war.
Why? Does it make me uncomfortable? Do I just have a weak stomach when it comes to violence? Does it scare me, because war is objectively scary?
Maybe a mix of all 3?
Then, I met Mr. Wigfield. We sat on the couch in his living room.
Mr. Wigfield is 103 years old. I watched his face very intently as he spoke to me.
He talked about D-Day, over 75 years after he stormed the beach, and I could see that, behind his eyes, he was working to remember. The gears were turning.
That reminded me of my own grandfather, who was in China during the war. He was in his late teens, and when he would sit at the dinner table, having his tea, telling stories about his time in China, I would see the same look on his face.
He was trying to remember.
I have gone for 25 years now trying to avoid “remembering” events like World War 2.
But Mr. Wigfield was there. He was on Utah beach at Normandy on D-Day.
He saw friends die. He himself was injured. He remembers, and he told me about it, in his own words.
And that floored me.
Hollywood can base movies on real-life events, wars and crises, and sometimes the result is spot-on, really bringing the audience into the emotion, the violence, the intensity of these events.
But I spoke to someone last week who was a part of history, and I listened to him tell it. It wasn’t Hollywood, it wasn’t a Netflix special. It wasn’t a textbook, and it wasn’t a documentary.
It was a 103-year-old veteran, sitting on the couch in his living room, talking to a 25-year-old reporter, remembering history.
This Veterans Day, let’s remember.
Take it from me, the aforementioned 25-year-old “I’m not really interested in war” reporter. These people, people like Mr. Wigfield, are heroes. Remembering their sacrifice and honoring their memory is the least we can do.