One of my grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II. The other worked in a critical industry and so was exempted from the draft. After living and working in the Phillippines for a few years, he and his family left only a few weeks ahead of the Japanese. Many of their friends and their friends’ families did not make it out in time. Most of them spent the rest of the war in Japanese POW camps—assuming they survived that long.
A semi-distant relative worked on the Manhattan Project. A few days after one of the test detonations, he and his children wandered the test site, picking up shards of alien glass littering the desert: bright leavings of a new technology whose more subtle dangers had yet to be identified. All three of them eventually died of cancer.
None of them ever held a rifle. None of them were soldiers. They still died casualties of war.
It is they, and the countless people whose stories echo theirs, who I remember today.