On a recent sunny day, 63-year-old Linda Fetchu Slider placed some red carnations at the grave site of the father she never knew.
He was a victim of the Korean war — the so-called “forgotten war” — when she was a toddler.
“It is a terrible void in your life,” she said as she stood in Akron’s Holy Cross Cemetery.
But today, Slider will have a special connection with her father as she joins about 100 Korean War veterans and family members as they lead the annual Cuyahoga Falls Memorial Day Parade.
The 81st edition of the parade will mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean conflict’s end in July 1953. It lasted about three years.
The Falls parade is just one of dozens of Memorial Day events this weekend, among them parades in Green, New Franklin, Copley, Wadsworth, Medina, Kent, North Canton and others.
The Korean War participants in Cuyahoga Falls will receive specially designed medallions, with the words “Korean War 60th Anniversary, The Forgotten War,” on one side, and “I Will Not Forget, Memorial Day 2013,” on the other.
Slider’s father, Army Cpl. William R. Lees, was a member of the Army Reserve in the late 1940s and was mobilized for Korea.
Less than three weeks after he arrived, Cpl. Lees was awarded a Silver Star for his actions on the battle field.
Three months later, on April 23, 1951, and at age 21, he was dead.
But finding out was an agonizing process.
At first, the family was told he was missing in action.
It would be another year before they would know that he had died.
A letter from Maj. Gen. William E. Bergin, Adjutant General of the Army, dated May 2, 1952, told the family that Cpl. Lees had died instantly when a mortar dropped nearby.
“I realize there is nothing which I can say or do which will minimize the great loss you have sustained but I feel the knowledge that he gave his life for his country will to some extent alleviate the sorrow which you are experiencing and will in time prove of sustaining comfort to you,” Bergin wrote to the family.
Slider’s mother, Dolores Fetchu, later remarried. Now 82, she still lives in the area.
Slider, however, said she has no memory of her father.
For her whole life, Slider said, she has felt like she was cheated because she never knew her father.
“There has always been a twinge of sadness within me,” she said.
“It is such a big void,” for a child to not have either a father or a mother, she said.
“But I know from what I have read what a hero he was,” she said.
Five years ago, on an anniversary of his death, Slider paid for a water well in her father’s memory in a Nigerian village through Operation Blessing’s Living Water Ministry.
“It is the best thing I have done in my life,” she said.
The parade begins at 9 a.m. at Portage Trail and Lillis Drive and ends at Oakwood Cemetery, where there will be a ceremony at 11 a.m. The organizers are American Legion Charles Faust Post #281 and the Korean War Veteran’s Association.
Although disabled, Slider will represent her father in the parade, and considers it an honor.
“I don’t care if I am remembered but I want my Dad to be remembered,” she said.
“He was such a hero.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.