Lester E. Sykes
I have everything written down to say this morning, then as I walked up here and turned and saw all your faces a hundred thoughts flashed in my mind. Pictures of so many things. All those who came before, Eleanor Pierce, Rodney Dimmick, so many that I miss. Please give me just a moment to collect myself.
Good morning and Thank You for coming here to remember Dad, and support Mom and our families as we face this change in our lives.
As I came around the corner yesterday in the village, looking at Mt. Ascutney, I knew it would always be my home, but it would never be "my home again". I have written these thoughts for Mom, my sisters and my children.
The rain is falling hard up on my roof , takes me back into my youth, I would sit and listen from inside and take for granted I was warm and dry and slow would pass the time. It never crossed my mind that things would ever change…Mom would have a soup pot on the stove she used the oven doors to dry our clothes. We would get the clay and blocks and maybe the electric train out, and build us a future on the kitchen floor. Leanne was engineer and I would pump gasoline, we filled up on our dreams. Reading 2434 would ring, It was Grandma on the phone, she knew we would be in today, she only lived 3 miles away. We always waited for her call, she had bought us matching coats to see us thru to spring, Linda would get Leanne's next fall. Winter came it didn't mean a thing it only snowed the bombs did not explode. We grew to see the changing of our generations, wakening and finding ourselves the rulers of the road. Now I'm married for the second time. My grandma is long sense gone. I have children of my own, three now all grown. One day they may wake up and be far away from home and thoughts will come to mind, of all the good things they have known growing in their Brownsville home. The rain is falling hard on my roof, takes me back into my youth. I would sit and listen from inside and take for granted I was dry and warm and slow would pass the time. It never crossed my mind that things would ever change. … My God how things have changed….
Dad had asked that I speak at his funeral, he felt I knew him, I was the oldest boy and that's the way it should be. So to avoid another argument with Lester I am here.Lester was born in the boiler room the Sykes' Mill, there were four in front of him. Ethel, Lloyd, Ruth and Eleanor. All though life was hard they managed not to notice and spent summers in the mill pond, sliding in the winter and always working to support the family. Pulling slabs at the mill, duties with the Sykes Store and care of the cows and other animals. Lester was a curious child into any trouble he could find, raiding kitchens, for cookies, of the Blanchards and Pierces. He would spend some time each summer in Bristol VT at his Grand Folks the Laber's and the Purington's. With his High School years came the Great Depression and many changes. He went to work, leaving school in his Jr. year to help provide for the family.
LESTER E. SYKES
He drove truck all day and spent half the night repairing it to use the next day. Hoping to earn some extra money he joined the Vermont National Guard. Then.. In only a moment he was listening to Tokyo Rose and the 155mm howitzers. He was 20-35 lighter than when he was at home because he was working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk and they always seamed to bring some ammunition but no food. He had trouble spelling, thus letter writing was a pain for him, and letters were 4 to 6 months in coming. He could field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. At 80 he could recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or a BAR and used both effectively when he had to. He dug foxholes and latrines and applied first aid like a professional. He move forward until he was told to stop or stopped until he was told to move. He would obey orders instantly and without hesitation, but he was not without spirit or individual dignity. It was rumored he told more than one new 2nd Lt that they were short on common sense. He was self sufficient. He had two sets of underwear, he washed one and wore the other. He kept his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgot to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He cooked his own meals if there was any food, mended his own clothes, and fixed his own hurts. If you were thirsty he shared his water with you, if you were hungry his food. He even split his ammunition in the midst of battle when others ran low. He learned to use his hands like weapons and weapon like they were his hands. He could save your life "or" take it, because that was his job. He saw more suffering and death than anyone should have, yet he would have gone to Iraq if it had been possible, so some young man would not have to carry what he carried all his life. He stood atop a hill covered with bodies, which he helped to create. He wept in public and in private, for friends who had fallen in combat and was unashamed. He also had a relationship with his God that we may never understand. He felt every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at a rigid attention, tempering the burning desire to knock the living …. "square away" those around him who had not bothered to stand, remove their hats or even shut there mouths. You see in a twist, day in day out for 33 months far away from Mt Ascuntey he defended their right to be disrespectful. He understood what they never will, and that is FREEDOM, is not free. It is a bill that comes due, pay now or later with interest, and he paid. Just like the seven generations of Vermont Sykes' before him he paid the price for our FREEDOM. He asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding, which we all to often forgot to offer. Yes remember him always, He was and AMERICAN SOLDIER. As he walked from the train station in Windsor toward home, he was 95 pounds, sick, tired and whipped, but not beaten. He got a ride to the Brownsville Store where his Dad saw him coming and hollered "LOU LOU" his mother came into the store. Lester was home. The best was yet to come. Hey who is that girl who rides by on the horse and the bike all the time?? Christine Peoples, now Christine Sykes. Children, Grand Children, Great Grand Children. Sunday trips in the 50's to Aunt Ruth's, Washington DC to Uncle Lloyd's, Jim Sykes's. The Brownsville Dances, the 60's, 4H, Boy Scouts, State Fairs, Eastern States. Leigh in the service, Leanne in nursing school, Linda in nursing school. Trips to Boston, Manchester, NH.
LESTER E. SYKES
Westover Air Force Base, Graduations, weddings and all the time working to support the family. The store keeper, the truck driver, the loader and the back hoe. Then the 80's and 90's, winters in Florida with Leanne and Linda and their families. Summers in Vermont, more work. … .Then, then a life time 87 years had come and gone. The value of that LIFE is now left to us in the MEMORIES and MOMENTS we SHARED. I would like to Thank, General O Donavan, Col Eiseman, Sgt White from the 172 INF, Ralph Knox from the 43rd, ...and all of you!...
All the Leaves are gone..but nothing that the summer did was wrong.. Lester Leigh Sykes