On Memorial Day, how lucky I am to be alive


By Chuck Woodbury
I was talking to my daughter, Emily, the other day about my father, her grandfather. And now, as Memorial Day approaches, I find myself thinking about that conversation again.

My mother and father’s wedding picture.

Every single one of us should pause once in awhile to ponder how lucky we are to be alive — how lucky that we ever lived at all. What were the odds of our parents ever meeting, marrying, and then conceiving us at just the right time?

Emily and I were talking about how our lives could easily have never happened had my father, a B-24 pilot who flew 35 missions in Europe in World War II, been shot down and killed. Of those thousands of German anti-aircraft gunners, it would have only taken one to have slightly changed the angle of his cannon to have blown up my father’s plane instead of the crews’ a few hundred feet away.

As it turned out, my father came home, met my mother, and enjoyed a good life that lasted until 2008.

The odds of his crew and him surviving their 35 missions were slim: You or I would never in a million years get on a passenger plane if the odds of going down were even 10 percent of what my father and his brave fellow flyers endured.

I think of all my family members that live today (and others who will in the future) because my father survived— his three children, three grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and soon, what would have been his first great-great-grandchild.

When I visit a cemetery (which I often do on my RV travels) and come across the grave of a soldier who did not come home, I think about all the children he may have had that never had a chance to live.

War is such a terrible thing. But, sadly, it happens. On this Memorial Day Weekend, I feel both gratitude for those who gave their lives for our country, and sadness for those who were therefore never born to experience the wonderful richness of life.

I can’t help pondering, even celebrating my own life, which would never have happened had my father not survived. If that had happened, what would you be doing right now? This newsletter would never have existed either.

Always much to think about. . .

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Bob Godfrey

Chuck, what a well written article and thanks to your father and mine too who served and saved this country. My Dad (still alive at 93) went ashore on Okinawa on Easter Sunday morning in the Marine second wave 1945. As a combat veteran myself, I find myself drawn more frequently to WWII (and others) museums, cemeteries, monuments etc. because I appreciate more and more daily, the sacrifices made on our behalf. We just recently visited the USS Alabama battleship in Mobile and I am amazed at the efforts of those who served aboard and also the USS Drum WWII submarine there. But my most poignant memories are of visiting National and International cemeteries where US soldiers are interred.


True story: my husband’s grandfather was in the Army in WWI. He was in New York scheduled to leave on a troop ship when he contracted the flu, thereby missing the ship. The ship was sunk, and all on board lost their lives! When did you ever think having the flu was a good thing?

Arthur Jacobson

Chuck, I want to thank your father through you for his heroism and valor. How he and his fellow airmen mustered the courage, mission after mission, to climb into those cramped planes and face the unknown is heroism beyond description or medals. Everyone should take the opportunity, if presented, to go to an airport near them when a WWII bomber makes a visit. Try to climb into one of those flying sardine cans and imagine yourself in your late teens or early 20’s high above hostile skies facing a possible horrific death, maiming and/or capture for an untold time. I can guarantee you that the experience of a visit will forever change your opinion of freedom’s cost. Freedom is never free.