Growing up on Appleton Street in Appleton, WI in the ’80s in the Burt family was about being strong in the Lord and finding your guiding light at Mount Olive Lutheran Church–My Grandmother Erna Burt’s Church. Our family listened to grandma when she would mourn her son over Sunday chicken dinner. We would join her in prayer when she would insist we say the entire second half of our traditional dinner prayer, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” I imagine the level of grief she felt when she muttered those words after losing her son from the trials and tribulations of war. My grandmother raised many sons, but Lee will always be one who was near and dear to her heart.
My grandmother was one of the mothers who was afflicted by our Department of the Army who was notified her son would not return home. Our visitations growing up were about respect and honor as Burts. My grandmother wore the burden of losing a son to war all the days of her life after her son did not return home. Our family understands the value and cost of war.
My father, Davis Burt, was a “Bay of Pigs” missile crewmember. I recall the days of being a hyperactive little brat in front of his mother being punished by making me read his Atlas binary missile code manuals that instinctively planted the seed the military was a challenge as my dad toughened me up growing up.
Having a Gold Star grandmother meant a lot to me when she was alive. I knew one day Erna would be reunited with her son, but her time spent praying in the garden was her way of coping through hardships that kept the family fed. Grandma worked as a volunteer at Mount Olive with Ladies Aid. I would always ask her, “is it Ladies Aid because you need hearing aides?” Her grimace was always her rebuttal.
I grew up with a heritage of honor and responsibility as an example set by Grandma Burt. As I sit here typing, I recall her singing to me and telling me stories about her son Lee. Grandma’s stories always spoke of her son as a brave young man who sacrificed his life to set our democracy free. I often pondered how difficult growing up in the depression was after hearing Grandma share her stories with me.
Being raised by a Gold Star Grandmother taught me virtue and value to appreciate those who serve in the military, who never make it home. I never met my Grandfather or Uncle Lee. The only thing I knew was we sacrificed a member of our family’s life as told in scripture and that is to be considered a divine blessing, not an overgrown path of misery. My grandma lost a son to war. Her example of dedication to faith is the reason I confide so strongly in the Lord in my darkest hour. Growing up hearing legendary stories of Uncle Lee eventually led me to join the military. Uncle Lee carried me in basic training recalling his picture I found at Grandma’s house in a shoe box. Grandma passed away while I was in basic training. I never got to say goodbye. I did come to understand she was proud of me for joining and following Uncle Lee.
Having a Gold Star Grandmother and her lessons gave me the extra courage to finish my duty regardless of those left behind. God bless our Gold Star Mothers and may we always seek to lighten their burden.