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Books for (un)comfort and food for comfort

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Memorial Day is more than barbecue

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

You might recognize that I switched my column’s title around for today, starting with my book recommendation. It is to honor our soldiers and those who laid down their lives for us.

Before lighting your barbecue and enjoying tomorrow’s Memorial Day, we all should remember the sacrifice that our troops and their families have made. The American Legion will have its annual Memorial Day Commemoration tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the Gen. McBride Veterans Cemetery, located within the South Park Cemetery, between South Main and Southeast Main Streets. Before that, the Roswell Elks Lodge, 1720 N. Montana Ave., invites the public to its annual Memorial Day breakfast and ceremony at 8 a.m. Veterans eat free.

Many who were killed in action, fighting for the U.S. were swallowed by the sea or lost in jungles in foreign countries, never to be seen again, just as Gen. Kenneth N. Walker, who lost his life on a mission to the Solomon Islands in 1943 and whose plane was never found. Roswell’s former Army Airfield was named Walker Air Force Base after him in 1949.

I remember seeing the pain in the eyes of my late husband, Maj. David E. Stock, U.S. Marine Corps, when he talked about his classmates dying in Vietnam. The heartbreak of Sgt. Moses D. Rocha’s mother when she stood at the grave of her young son.

Every time you see that folded American flag being given to a widow or a parent, the brutal price of freedom is paid again.

Today, I recommend three books.

One of the best books written is Robert Leckie’s “Helmet for My Pillow.” Here is one of the most riveting first-person accounts to ever come out of World War II. Leckie was 21 when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in January 1942 to become a scout in the famous First Division.

In “Helmet for My Pillow,” the reader follows his journey, from boot camp on Parris Island, South Carolina, all the way to the raging battles in the Pacific, where some of the war’s fiercest fighting took place. Recounting his service with the 1st Marine Division and the brutal action on Guadalcanal, New Britain and Peleliu, Leckie spares no detail of the horrors and sacrifice of war, painting an unsentimental portrait of how real warriors are made, fight, and all too often die in the defense of their country.

“Helmet for My Pillow” is personal. It shows the humor in darkness, the brutality of an all-out war. Leckie first published his story in 1957. It is his narrative beginning with him enlisting in the U.S. Marines, shortly after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

A glimpse of his voice and the horror he encountered is told after a battle won, “The flies were in possession of the field; the tropics had won; her minions were everywhere, smacking their lips over this bounty of rotting flesh. All of my elation at the victory, all of my fanciful cockiness fled before the horror of what my eyes beheld.”

Leckie’s talent on painting the unforgiving scenes of fighting and warfare in words that show the reality of war.

The HBO mini-series “The Pacific” was adapted in large part from “Helmet for My Pillow,” along with Eugene Sledge’s “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” and the personal story of Medal of Honor recipient Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone.

The other book is from one of our own, “Kyle Bullock’s book, ‘The Coward,’ tells the story of a World War II pilot tasked with dropping bombs on Japanese cities. This book is a historical fiction, but draws upon the stories and experiences of Bullock’s late grandfather, who was stationed in Roswell, and was sent on these bombing missions. The book is well written and shows a different angle than other war-related literature.

Then, there is the book, “Memorial Day for Kids” by Natalie De Marco. The book is written for children between 6 and 10 years and covers the difficult subject of what Memorial Day is — that it is more than just going to a parade or having a barbecue. How Memorial Day got started, why we celebrate Memorial Day and what song people play on Memorial Day. The book is easy to read with colorful pictures.

All above-mentioned books are available as hard copy or as e-book.

Chances are that you are having a picnic or barbecue tomorrow in your backyard with your friends and family.

Here is one of my favorite recipes for a homemade barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sauce with a kick

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced (2 if you really like it spicy)

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

1 bottle ketchup (32 ounces)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup apple juice

1/2 cup honey (preferably New Mexico honey)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 Tbsp bourbon whiskey (the alcohol evaporates during cooking, leaving only the flavor)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp freshly ground white pepper

1 Tbsp dried crushed red New Mexico chile pepper

Preparation

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan. Sauté onion until it turns translucent — not brown, add minced garlic and jalapeño pepper in sunflower oil until tender.

Stir in ketchup, dark brown sugar, vinegar, apple juice, honey, Worcestershire sauce, bourbon whiskey, salt, freshly ground white pepper, and the crushed red chile pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Use immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container up to one month.

From our family to yours:

Have a great Memorial Day.