As a child I remember it as Decoration Day. I would see many of our neighbors sitting on their front porches making flowers from crepe paper to put on graves. Not my mother though. She cut the roses and other fresh flowers that grew in our yard to put on the graves of those buried at Corinth Cemetery.
The big decoration went on my brother’s grave, Howard “Bug” Estep, who was killed during World War II in a plane crash on June 17, 1943 in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was only 21 years of age. He left behind a wife and a newborn baby.
I was only four years old when he died so I don’t remember much about him. But I do remember how special it was to my parents on Decoration Day to honor his grave with flowers.
It was many years later before we found out the cause of the crash. We have been told that take-off was normal, but the plane never left the ground. The pilot was not checked out in this newer B-17 and felt the controls didn’t feel right. He also didn’t turn on his turbos which would have given the plane more power for take off.
The aircraft was loaded with bombs and it ran off the runway, jumped a pond and crashed into the opposite bank and burned.
The navigator was thrown through the nose on impact, the bombardier escaped through the hole he made. The pilot escaped through the side window followed by the flight engineer. The six other men died in the crash.
A marker with the names of those who died was placed at the site where the crash occurred.
For the families that have suffered these tragic losses they never get over it. That is why this Monday, Memorial Day, we decorate their graves. These people died for their country. They died for you and me.
Sadly, so many graves are too old and there is nobody left to decorate them. My sister Wanda and I have carried on the tradition, set by my parents, of decorating the graves at Corinth Cemetery.
My wife, Judy, makes sure that her family member’s graves are decorated each year both in Corbin and Williamsburg.
A lot of our values have changed over the years. I hope we will always remember to honor those who have gone before us on this special day of the year.
For cemeteries everywhere the cost of keeping them mowed is great. If you have the opportunity to help support this cause, please do.
A related story to my brother’s death came when I was working a summer job to help pay for my college education.
It was when I-75 was being constructed. Ohio was ahead of the game for construction and that is where I spent four summers as a common laborer. I worked on jobs all over the state.
At this particular time we were working near Dayton. Our work involved construction of roadside parks. We had to form and pour the concrete for picnic tables and construct shelter houses.
Did this kind of work ever give me the incentive to finish my education? We were always out in the hot sun and dust was always in the air.
To finish the concrete work we had to call the local union office for concrete finishers. I remember standing on the hillside under the shade of a big oak tree when a conversation started with one of the workers.
He asked me my name. When I told him Estep, he said he once knew an Estep. He was in the service with him and he was killed in a plane crash.
Cold chills ran over my body when he said that. He went on to say he was in Rapid City S.D. when it happened and that his friend’s name was Howard and was called by his nickname, “Bug.”
He also said they both were waiting on flights out and he told ‘Bug” to go ahead and that he would catch the next flight out. A twist of fate.