“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”Franklin D. Roosevelt
So often Memorial Day gets wrapped up and set aside somewhere within the happy, long weekend during which many kick off the summer season. And by all means, enjoy your long weekend if you have it! But we absolutely cannot forget that Memorial Day is truly about taking the time to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
Those of you who have been following us here at Veteran Voices may know that there is one person who is the driving force behind all that we do. He’s the one that our family lost during World War II – Corporal Richard Livingston. He was an only child, but adored by his cousins who swore that to know him was to love him. And now he remains the most beloved member of an extended family who never got the opportunity to meet him.
Richard was inducted into the Army in November 1942. He initially completed ordnance training at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. Shortly afterward, though, he was recruited to the Army Specialized Training Program, where he studied Civil Affairs at Virginia Tech. He then completed extensive Dutch language and history courses at Stanford University. This training landed him in the European Civil Affairs Regiment (ECAR) – a unique and self-contained regiment whose job it would be to re-establish government and public affairs after the liberation of Europe.
He arrived in England on 5 April 1944 at the ECAR Headquarters at Shrivenham. He remained there until shortly after D-Day, then it was on to France with an ECAR Company attached to the 9th Infantry Division. He lasted only about two and a half months before being killed in an explosion during battle in a southeastern suburb of Paris near Melun. Just three days after the liberation of Paris.
He was initially buried the following day at Solers, but was reburied at the Epinal American Cemetery near Dinozé, France in 1948.
In our quest to find out more about what happened to Richard – the family story had always been that his barracks had been bombed – we discovered all of the above information, and one more little piece of information. When he was killed, Richard had in his possession the effects of another fallen soldier named Pvt. James Harbert, who had been killed five days prior. We don’t yet know the connection between the two men (that’s the next personal project). We don’t know if Richard was going to personally return the effects when he got home, or if he was just temporarily holding onto them before passing them on to be returned. Whatever the relationship, it felt important to me to find Pvt. Harbert.
So I did… Last week, on a research trip to Georgia, we made a little detour over to the tiny town of Westminster, South Carolina and, during what was maybe the only hour of sun that whole day, we tromped through the Baptist cemetery until I found Pvt. James M. “Buck” Harbert situated next to his parents. We only stayed a few minutes. Just long enough to say “thank you,” and that he and Richard are remembered, and their sacrifice acknowledged. On the way out of town there was, I kid you not, a rainbow that appeared for just a few moments. Whether you believe in signs is for you to decide, but it felt like an acknowledgement from both of them that they had seen our small moment of remembrance. At the very least, it was a reminder of the importance of taking one small moment to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.