On Veterans Day, I was missing my late husband. Here’s how I know he misses me too.
Two days before Veterans Day, one of the churches in town had a white elephant sale. I browsed aisle after aisle of clothes, cookbooks and household goods, not looking for anything in particular, other than something to keep me occupied. It’d been nine years since my husband, Burnell, died of leukemia. Veterans Day had always been our holiday—we rarely missed a parade, memorial or marching band performance. It was still hard getting used to being alone.
I was proud to be both the wife and daughter of veterans, not to mention a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary for more than 60 years. Burnell was a gunner in the Navy during World War II. He’d served in the South Pacific, just like my dad. In fact, that’s how we met. After the war, Burnell would stop by my house to trade service stories with Dad. Even then, I knew. There was something special about the tall sailor with wavy brown hair and dark eyes.
The first time Burnell asked me to dance was on the Fourth of July. He didn’t take me out on a proper date until the following December, though, when he’d saved up enough money. After that we were inseparable. We married in 1950, raised a daughter, built a happy life together. He was my sweetheart, my soul mate.
I picked up a few odds and ends at the sale and headed for checkout. That’s when I spotted something at a nearby table. Plastic bags of “junk jewelry”—a mish-mash of chains, rhinestones and earrings missing a mate. Only 25 cents. I couldn’t resist a good deal. I added one of the bags to my purchase.
When I got home, I spilled its contents out on the kitchen table. Junk jewelry indeed! A broken necklace, a plastic ring, some mismatched beads and…
I stopped sifting and picked up a small pin encircled with seed pearls. It was attached by a chain to a crest—the emblem of the U.S. Navy. I recognized the trinket instantly.
A so-called “sweetheart pin” from World War II. The very kind sailors gave to their loved ones left back home. A memento to hold onto until they saw each other again.