All of our lives have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Memorial Day is fast approaching, and let’s not forget the hundreds of thousands who gave their lives protecting our freedom.

For the first decade of my life, my parents and I lived with my grandmother. She was a loving woman who enjoyed her children and grandchildren. She filled her home with pictures and I was especially drawn to the pictures of a man dressed in a military uniform.

One afternoon my grandmother saw me standing in front of his picture. In broken Italian, she told me about the man in the frame. “He’s my son Sullivan,” she gently held my face while smiling ear to ear, “You resemble him.” Without knowing, my grandmother planted a seed, which developed into a passion for watching any movie or documentary about World War II. Life went on and many years later I have the same picture in my home.

With the emergence of the internet and the evolution of war-related movies, I began watching older men, who fought in World War II and Korea opening up about their experiences. For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, we had no idea we were walking the streets alongside what has been deemed the “Greatest Generation.” No one I knew talked about wartime experiences. They appeared busy raising families and going to work.

Today the term “heroes” appears to be often used for many occupations. I will follow what the older men who fought stated. “The real heroes are those buried under the white crosses. The ones who never came home and continue living.” While wiping their eyes they would continue, “Never able to marry, have children, grandchildren and experience the rest of life. Instead, their life came to a sudden violent end. For that, they will always be forever young.”

I understand now what they were saying. That young man in the military uniform lost his life suddenly on July 21, 1943, in the Sicilian Campaign. He had also fought and liberated North Africa and was an engineer in the 1st Infantry Division. He was a young man from a small town in upstate New York. Like most, his main goal was to survive and come home. However, like many who fought, being in the wrong place at the wrong time changed those plans.

Here is to you Uncle Salvatore “Sullivan” Fringi. I hope you have enjoyed looking down on your family throughout all these years. I hope that I am blessed to meet you someday.

Do you have a forever young picture in your home? The next time you look in the mirror and complain about thinning hair, wrinkles, and a larger frame. Think of that young man in the photo and thank him for his sacrifice and also praise God that you are old enough to complain.