When we were in St. Louis a few weeks ago, we stopped in the downtown Soldiers' Memorial, which has a small museum exhibiting artifacts and soldiers' mementos. There were weapons, diaries, photos, uniforms, maps, drawings and letters. One thing that struck me were the tiny "souvenir" items - little ceramic vases from France, handmade cigarette holders or ashtrays made from shell casings or other recycled materials, pocket Bibles, and the belt buckles, flags, manuals and uniform patches taken from enemy soldiers.
When you think of these things, they seem insignificant and like the dusty stuff many people would trash when cleaning out Grandpa's attic instead of donating to a museum. But after awhile they started to sink in and made me think deeply about the personal aspects of these soldiers' lives. Each little object belonged to a person - a person who fought for our freedoms, who left a life of home and family to follow orders in foreign lands, sometimes not to return. A person who had friends like we do, who worked in a community, went to church, hugged his mom, planted a garden or fields, fed the dog, pushed a baby buggy, tied his shoes, tried to do right. Tears ran down my cheeks.
This is why we should keep the memories, even the tiny, dusty souvenirs of a war long ago.