(This is a repost of what a wrote a few years ago about Peter and Peggy Borsay. Each year I remember…)

It was 44 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 its 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 horribly tragic communications glitch.

Peter was in his prime when he was killed; he was in graduate school with a budding academic career ahead of him. Peter and Peggy had only been married 17 months when she got the news the Peter was gone. She became a widow at 23 years old.  She never remarried or had children. She went on to get her doctorate and worked in the corporate world until she passed away in 2006  after losing a valiant fight with  breast cancer. But 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, so many years later, in a family cemetery in West Virginia surrounded by Peter’s family.

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 womanI 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.