EDITORIAL: Honor fallen, their families

·2 min read

May 27—Memorial Day is our nation's day to remember our honored dead who gave their lives in service to the nation, particularly in times of war.

The Joplin Globe today concludes a three-part series at this time of collective memory by telling of one family's experience of such loss and of a portion of that loss not always noted, that of the family whose child has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Kevin McClintock has recounted the story for Globe readers of Jess Claude Lines and his family during World War II. Lines had two sons who served in the U.S. Navy during the war: Walter Ellsworth Lines, his youngest, and Richard Lines, Ellsworth's older brother.

Jess had received a telegram from the Navy that shook him to the core: "The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Walter Ellsworth Lines, motor machinists mate second class US Navy, is missing following action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country." Ellsworth served aboard the USS Triton, and that submarine had gone missing in March 1943.

Jess was not without hope. The older son had survived the breakup and sinking of the USS Worden, a destroyer, in the Bering Sea in early 1943. Perhaps Ellsworth had survived as well. What was the Navy doing to find his boy? Dissatisfied with the scant information in the telegram and determined to find out more, Jess set out for the naval base San Diego to get answers.

After a grueling cross-country journey in an old truck that wouldn't go more than 15 mph, Jess arrived in San Diego seeking information.

Jess was a simple man who had not traveled far from his Joplin home. He had no experience of naval vessels, let alone subs. A Navy chaplain trying to comfort the man found him seeking understanding more than comfort. The chaplain arranged a tour of a sub that was in port, where Jess Lines found that understanding.

"Once Jess got what a submarine was in his head — that the (men) were sealed up inside the boat with no way to get out — he finally understood," family member Pauletta Isaacs said. "It all just clicked."

Though the journey was very specific for this father, that moment of realization, of shocked understanding and sorrow has come to many families — parents, wives, children — over the years of military service in wartime.

On this Memorial Day, let's all take time to honor our fallen, but let's all also take a moment to consider that each singular soldier, sailor, Marine or airman's loss is a loss that shakes a family as well. Every life laid down touches so many others. Remember them on this holiday.

And remember all those who have suffered — those who died and those shattered by their loss — to defend us and our nation.