The Name in the Stone

What a beautiful, moving tribute on this Memorial Day. Thank you for some important things to think about.

Posted by Peg C. at May 31, 2004 4:18 PM

You are very welcome. I appreciate your kind words.

Posted by vanderleun at May 31, 2004 4:23 PM

I am a 78 year old retired physician, who served in WW 11 as a navy pilot. I cannot thank you enough for this beautiful tribute, which brought tears to my eyes.
Human society has suffered continual violence throughout history. Bless the men and women who sacrifice to make life a little safer. And bless you for understanding this. Seymour D.

Posted by seymour dubroff at May 31, 2004 6:26 PM

Thank you, Dr. Dubroff.

Posted by vanderleun at May 31, 2004 6:37 PM

Thank you for the essay about your uncle. Memorial Day is always a sad anniversary for me. My father died on Memorial Day weekend of a heart attack 40 years ago. He was a veteran of World War II, 82nd Airborne. I often think of him as one of Hitler's delayed-reaction statistics-- the coroner told my mother that he was seeing a lot of veterans dying suddenly in their late 40s and early 50s, and he assumed it was the aftereffects of battle stress.

I never went through a politically radical phase in college, mostly because I was too aware of the price my father had paid for my safety and my freedom. I'm older now than my father was when he died, but I'm still grateful for the life as well as the love he gave me, and I try to live my life in a way that reflects that gratitude.

Once again, thank you for the honesty as well as the thoughtfulness in your writing. God bless.

Posted by Connecticut Yankee at May 31, 2004 7:53 PM

Your honest tribute brought me to tears. Life can
bring surprises that are meant to teach us and
help us to grow and understand ourselves and others in a deeper way.

What a wonderful family you have, they love very

Thank you for your tribute, it is one I will remember.

Posted by Carole at May 31, 2004 7:56 PM

Thank you very much for sharing this story. Beautiful.
Carl O.

Posted by Carl Oesterle at May 31, 2004 8:32 PM

What a touching story, beautifully told.

Posted by sammy small at May 31, 2004 9:29 PM

Thank you Gerard.

If we cannot die with his honor, my we live...with your honesty.

Posted by Stephen at May 31, 2004 10:12 PM

I followed your uncle to Korea, during the hottest part of the unwar period... 1965-69...

Driving from our island on the DMZ, I was armed and riding outside as the classified materials we were carrying filled the trucks cab...

Wearing army-issue underwear and fatigues and boots and fiberglass jacket and gloves, I was still feeling sorry for myself, when I saw way up ahead, a boy walking beside the road, coming toward our barreling deuce-and-a-half.

He was wearing torn jeans which ended at the knees, no shoes, a levi vest over no shirt, no hat and nothing but jeans and vest. I could see his ribs and gaunt collarbones, as he lurched along unevenly because of cerebral palsy or polio.

He grinned and waved lovingly to me as we raced past in the blistering, sub-Siberian cold.

To this day, I thank God I had the good grace to quit my bellyaching and recognize at least SOME of the many bounties I was receiving then, and receive now.

Your growth and insight blesses America, and all Americans grow when you grow.

Posted by Eye Opener at June 1, 2004 7:23 AM

Thanks for the story. What a shocking event it would be to have that experience. I am deeply touched. I came from a sort of pacifist family of Democrats and it took me until my forties to sort out the truth. I can relate to your process of maturation.

Posted by pbird at June 1, 2004 9:06 AM

Lovely post, Gerard.

Forgive me for wasting your bandwidth, but I really want to share something I wrote back in 1998. Much of it still applies today.

Posted by growler at June 1, 2004 3:06 PM

Beautiful, moving, and wiser than perhaps you give yourself credit for. Thank you very much.

Posted by Paul Stinchfield at June 1, 2004 7:06 PM

As I read I was reminded of my cousin Sonny who died in WWII. I never knew him but through his mother. His picture and flag hang in our hall now. Your words reminded me of all the families who gave their best for the safety we have. Thank you for telling us all again. Susan

Posted by Susan Perkins at June 2, 2004 1:07 PM


Thanks. The middle son in my family was also a flier in that war, and perished in a bomber over Germany. His name was Marion, and no one in my family bears his name... because people don't give boys that name very much any longer. But it was apparently popular back in the '20s. His son was a sullen and morose kid whom I haven't seen since childhood, and who has pretty much disappeared from the family. I think he obtained a Ph.D. in History at the University of Washington at one point, but the last anyone saw of him he had become an habitual drug user, and was on his way to live in the woods in Oregon or Washington. I don't know anyone who has seen him in over 30 years...

I'd like to say that if someone reading this happens to be named "Bruce," with a father who died over Germany named "Marion," and if you have a cousin you haven't seen since childhood named "Scott," give me a call and we'll talk this out. I took the blue pill this time. And if I ever have a son, and it's getting pretty late to consider it frankly, I'll think about naming him Marion. I sort of like that name, actually.

Posted by Scott at June 2, 2004 10:26 PM

Mr. Van Der Leun,

Thank you for this beautiful piece. I am sure I have never heard the love of family and our country more beautifully expressed. I hope you will not be upset that I copied your words and sent them to several of my friends. I am a retired US Navy officer from the Cold War and my father was a World War II vet (Burma). Even when I was serving, I never heard anyone express the cause he and I served in as moving and beautiful a manner as your words have for me. Thank you for your sentiments and may God bless you and your whole family.

Posted by Frosty in Houston at June 3, 2004 2:55 PM


Posted by Gerard Dols at June 5, 2004 6:21 AM

I wish every child in the country could read this. What a tribute to our men and woman in harms way. Sam Corbitt

Posted by Sam Corbitt at June 5, 2004 8:50 AM

I read this again today while America is paying tribute to another great American, President Ronald Reagan. There are still some great Americans out there. I found your story very heartwarming and poignant. Thank you for sharing it with us. I would love to see it get very wide dissemination.

Thank you very much for sharing it.


Posted by Gene Castillo at June 10, 2004 5:07 PM

Fantastic post, Gerard.

Posted by Allah at December 9, 2004 9:05 AM

As always, you have made a heartbreaking tribute beautiful and inspirational. Thank you. And if creamed onions exist, I want to try them . . .

Posted by Uncle Mikey at December 9, 2004 10:15 AM

Gerard, I'm a little behind in my reading but I am glad I caught up with this one - this one I understood every word! Keep up the good work. See you soon. Bob B

Posted by Bob B at December 9, 2004 8:01 PM

What gifts you have - a meaningful life and this stunning ability to write beautifully about it.

Posted by Barbara in CT at August 26, 2005 6:03 PM

I live 25 years in Canada.I was very happy, that I could travel SW of USA.4 months.28,000 km.I can say I love USA at this time even more than Canada.
Internet is giving to me possibility to live and to travel through sites of internet again in USA.
It is for me very painfull to see how some people,institutions,media are dealing with today heroes of your nation, fighting for their freedom and possibilietes to say what they are saying.To live how they are living.
Those young men inherited ways and responsibilieties
of your brother and other young men from his time.
Please, if you will again to go to see that monument,say "Hi" to your brother and to all men whose names are on those slabs, from one unknown man with origin from middle of Europe.
Thank you.

Posted by Al.Dr. at August 26, 2005 9:31 PM

During a conversation we had about the best cuts of meat and the best markets to obtain them our talk turned to the really good stuff, hot dogs. Some of the good ones, Boars Head, Hebrew National, Nathans, Karl Ehmer, and for old times Nedicks. But get down and dirty curbside gourmet muddy waters, Sabrettes with mustard and onions, hm, hm, hmm.

That other stuff you mentioned? That picture on the wall that had been there so long you no longer saw it. That's the thing, you spoke for a name, yours, Gerard was someone you knew of but didn't know back then. Now you do. Now the same thing repeats itself today with youth knowing so much, whether it true or not, they can be arrogantly self righteous, knowing they are right, taught by people that never were able to admit they were wrong and incapable of making amends, and lacking this gift they grow into this description by PASCAL that I found at the beginning of Eric Hoffer's book, True Believer.

Man would fain be great and sees that he is little; would fain be happy and see that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; would fain be the object of the love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only their aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against the truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.

Right under that is this line.

And slime they had for mortar.

Sorry, all that talk about hot dogs got me going.

Posted by Dennis at August 26, 2005 9:39 PM

Not at all. A most excellent response from which I have gleaned a most valuable series of quotations and the idea to read Hoffer's book again. I thank you.

Posted by Gerard Van Der Leun at August 26, 2005 10:04 PM

Just lovely, and such good medicine for those of us battered and weary from the She-Man debacle in Crawford. I often wonder if the Pink People, the Soros Minions, et al., ever stop to read something like this essay.

I never before thought about the unique pain associated with soldiers lost in a completely unknown place and time... damn, that's a cold and sour feeling.

Through your powerful talent and often jolting honesty, both Gerard I and Gerard II live on... in yet another most commendable and generous essay. I sincerely thank you for this gift.

Posted by SallyVee at August 27, 2005 12:16 AM

I can only imagine your family's pain, but you have served your uncle's name well in sharing this story.

Posted by Carrie at August 27, 2005 9:22 AM

"The Long Peace" ? -- I couldn't read much beyond the "Vietnam notwithstanding" comment.

Posted by David Tribbles at August 27, 2005 12:56 PM

A very moving post.

The loss of a son to war is beyond
imagining and the anguish lasts a lifetime.

Your post brings honor to the families that have given up their loved ones to the cause of freedom.

Posted by Bleeding Brain at August 27, 2005 7:42 PM

Thank you so much. More "memorial", less "three-day-weekend". I wonder if when my dad was crossing the Rhine around Mannheim with 7th Army he could have imagined in his wildest dreams that 60+ years later his son would be standing smack on the other side, working for a German/US company with the finest people you could hope to know. Strange, tiny, crazy, hopeful world, huh. I'm sorry you never knew your uncle. What a gift they gave us all.

Posted by tb at August 27, 2005 11:23 PM

Having lived and worked near Battery Park, I’m familiar with all the monuments there. But I never had a personal story to connect to the names. Every one of those names has such a story.

My uncles and father physically survived WWII with injuries that weren’t life threatening. The debt we owe those great fighters is beyond all measure. Honoring their examples is the best expression of respect.

Posted by Jason Pappas at August 29, 2005 5:52 AM

Gerard -

Excellent, and moving. Your grandparents handled that with love and respect.

I'm a little too young to have gone through that - I was 6 in 1965 - but had I been older I could easily have been pulled into that movement that ensnared so many young people. Youth is the time to be foolish, after all.

And, I have to wonder if the radical pacifism of the 60s was inevitable, given the ways that huge numbers of war dead tend to push societies that way, as in post-WWI Europe (though their numbers of dead in WWI were much higher than ours in WWII). Add to that the prosperity of the 50s, and the tendency of youth to think they figure it all out by the time they are 20, and it all seems so inevitable, looking back.

Anyway, thanks again.

Posted by Jeff Brokaw at August 31, 2005 5:22 AM

Todd Beamer's dad found the Battery Park monument and writes about it in a 27-APR-2006 Wall Street Journal OpEd on the movie "Flight 93"

I remembered this excellent piece of yours and thought you'd like to know about the OpEd.

Posted by Yanni Znaio at April 27, 2006 4:45 AM


I am an African who have always love the Name "GERARD" because of the English Footballer - Steve Gerard and its uncommon nature, which propelled me to search for its meaning on the net because my wife is expecting a baby.

After reading this story, i am more determined to give my child the name but as an African, we attach alot of things to the MEANING of a name.

Please Mr.GERARD VAN DER LEUN what does "GERARD" Mean?

Thank you for the wonderfull story for it has further reassured me that "A GOOD NAME IS BETTER THAN RICHES"

Posted by Po'-Bany at May 8, 2006 7:29 AM

Gerard is , in this variation, from the Anglo Saxon and means, I believe, "Strong with spear."

Posted by Gerard Van der Leun at May 8, 2006 7:34 AM

What a treasure to have come across your story, Mr. Van der Leun. Touching and personal. Beautifully written. Let's throw out the new textbooks and fill students' brains with the Truth...from such stories as yours. What you've accomplished may take up only a page in cyberspace, but it fills one's whole body and soul with the enormous value of each life that has lived, one-by-one, here on this beautiful planet. May you and the Other Gerard be forever blessed for your respective contributions to the human race.

Posted by Antoinette at November 1, 2011 2:12 PM