It was 39 years ago today (Memorial Day) that my brother-in-law, Peter Borsay, was killed in Vietnam. Peter was married to my husband’s older sister, Peggy. Unfortunately, I never met Peter. Steve and I met three years after Peter died so it’s a bit strange for me to "remember" Peter since I never knew him. But I wish I had known him. I have always had a feeling that there was something incomplete in my history with Steve’s family since I never knew Peter.
Peter’s death was even more tragic (if there is such a thing) because he was killed by "friendly fire" during a cease fire: military speak for "our side" killed him by accident. A helicopter still had it’s load of weapons and was told to discharge the load before returning to base by dumping it in an empty field. However, the field wasn’t empty. Five men were injured and Peter was killed — instantly, from what we were told. It was a tragic communications glitch.
Peter and Peggy had only been married 17 months when Peter was killed. She was 23 years old. Peg went on to get her doctorate and worked in the corporate world until she died two years ago from breast cancer. She never remarried or had children. I think a part of her heart died that Memorial Day with Peter and there was always a sense that she never recovered from her broken heart. On a cold December day, we buried Peg’s remains next to Peter’s in a family cemetery in West Virginia.
I remember the first time I went to the Vietnam memorial in
Washington and looked up Peter. There is a large book with all the
soldier’s names and I
looked up Peter Borsay. He is on Panel 23W – Line 25, pretty much
smack in the middle of the memorial. The names are
engraved in the granite and I remember touching the stone and running
my hand over the indentation. There was something almost comforting, if that makes sense,
about touching the name of this man who loved my sister-in-law, a woman
I loved like a sister.
Peter and Peg are both gone now. We don’t always understand or agree with "policy" but what I do know is this: Real people give real lives for our freedom. My life has been touched by a soldier I never knew and the world is different place because of his sacrifice.
I guess that’s the essence of Memorial Day: to remember those we
knew, and those we never had the chance to know, who have served our
country by giving their very lives — and also to remember those that loved them. For that, this Memorial Day, I am grateful.