Just One Memorial Day Story

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Just One Memorial Day Story

Post by Ralph » Tue May 30, 2006 6:52 am

New York Daily News - http://www.nydailynews.com
As the crowds played, one woman's story showed true meaning of Memorial Day

Monday, May 29th, 2006

The truest scent of Memorial Day Weekend in New York was not the meaty smell of a burger on a grill, but the delicate fragrance lingering on a perfume box that a Brooklyn soldier mailed his sister from liberated France shortly before he was killed in action more than 60 years ago.

The box sent by Cpl. Hugh Doyle to his older sister Ann arrived damaged at their Windsor Terrace home not long after the family was notified by telegram that the 21-year-old soldier had been shot and killed as his unit swept into the Nazi heartland. The bottle inside the box was intact. The label was in French and English.

"Rêve à Deux
Two in a Dream"

Ann had also received a pink seashell necklace from her older brother, 23-year-old Lt. Andrew Doyle. He had been seriously wounded while serving as a bombardier in the Pacific and became the first airman to receive a midflight blood transfusion. The incident was reported in Time magazine, and he was asked to come stateside and serve as a poster boy for a national blood drive.

But his flight crew had disappeared in combat while he recovered from his wounds, and he wrote the pilot's mother to say he was resuming combat missions on the however slim chance he might find his buddies. He himself disappeared on his next flight. His body was never recovered.

Ann wore the necklace until the clasp broke as she gave a new priest a congratulatory hug at an ordination party. She decided to leave the perfume unopened until a special occasion, but the top remained sealed even after she married and became Ann Byrne and moved to Staten Island.

On Thursday, Ann returned to Windsor Terrace for a ceremony renaming the family's old block of McDonald Ave. after her fallen brothers. The County Tyrone Pipe Band played "Amazing Grace," and she pulled a length of twine. A white sleeve covering the new street sign fell away to reveal:

"Lieutenant Andrew A. Doyle & Corporal Hugh P. Doyle Place"

Ann is 83, but she had a spring in her step as the pipe band led a procession through the old neighborhood. She took from her purse a pair of holy cards bearing her brothers' photos, their faces impossibly young.

"I've been carrying this for 60 years," she said.

The cards were taped together, and on the back was written the location of their headstones in Pinelawn Cemetery on Long Island. Hugh's is grave 16209 in Section J. Andrew's is grave 100 Section MA. The grave is empty.

"The 'M' stands for 'missing,'" Ann said.

Ann recalled that her mother had a dream the day before the family learned Andrew had vanished.

"My brother was on a raft and he was calling to her, and the next day she got the telegram," Ann recalled.

The mother somehow managed to keep her faith and equilibrium even after the second telegram came announcing the death of a second son. "My mother used to always say, 'God is good to me,'" Ann recalled. "People would say, 'How can she say that?' We were brought up to accept death."

The mother had been shaken when she opened a trunk where she had carefully stored five glasses that Andrew and his four best friends used to have a final drink before he set off for war. She discovered one glass had somehow been shattered.

"My brother's was the only one that was broken," Ann remembered. "She was devastated."

The procession ended at the Immaculate Heart of Mary gymnasium. Pictures of Andrew and Hugh were on the stage, where musicians played Irish tunes.

"Years go by," Ann said. "You think certain things and the tears come."

Ann was back at her Staten Island home on Friday, the start of Memorial Day weekend, a big American flag and a statue of Uncle Sam out front.

The necklace that Andrew had sent was on a small table, set in a circle, the Rêve à Deux bottle sent by Hugh in the center. A visitor picked up the necklace and the shells rustled against each other just as they would have when Ann first tried it on.

The perfume bottle itself gave off no scent, but the company must have spritzed the box to offer a prospective buyer a sample of Two in a Dream, and there it was, as ever-fresh as loss, the purest scent of Memorial Day Weekend in New York.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue May 30, 2006 2:52 pm

Beautiful story.
Contessa d'EM, a carbon-based life form


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