1940s stuff · Family · Obsessions

Planning a private pilgrimage

It sits, unchanged. The moon rises and sets. The sunlight beats down in punishing rays, bathing it and everything around it in the blinding golden light that can only come from an African sun. Water splatters across its smooth marble surface as the sprinklers work to keep at bay the desert that surrounds this lush, green oasis.

People stroll past, their voices hushed whispers out of respect for the fallen. Yet no one every stops to spend a few quiet moments. To them, it looks just like the one beside to it, behind it, in front of it. One of them might read the name in passing, their eyes moving over the letters etched into the marble. But there is no sign of recognition; they simply move on to the next name.

Time passes. First it was just a few years, and then ten, and then twenty. Now seventy years has gone by, and every sunset places more distance between the present time and that chaotic day when a promising life was ended. With each hour of marching time, the chance that a figure will ever come to a stop directly in front of that marker becomes slimmer. As his memory fades into nothing more than a hazy recollection to the very old, the opportunity is more remote that someone will ever take the time to stand in front of his grave and say kind words about him and the man that he was.

Because of this, it has become a passion of mine to change that. As I referenced in this post, Capt. James K. Stepro (Pete) was an honorable, brave man. His life was ended prematurely, but his legacy remains. His siblings are all passing away or have already gone on and even his nieces and nephews are climbing in years. It’s for this reason that I want to take Pete’s great-nephew, my father and the man who has worked hard to preserve his memory, to the North Africa American Cemetery in Tunisia. Dad is 68 years old now and not in the best of health, but he loves to travel and he deserves this trip. I realize that Tunisia is a volatile place, but it’s not so far gone that we couldn’t travel there. I want this trip to happen. Frankly, it needs to happen. Someone needs to visit Pete’s grave and he deserves that. Even if it’s taken 70+ years for someone to make his way there.

Pete, training in the UK prior to being deployed to North Africa.
Pete, training in the UK prior to being deployed to North Africa. Photo circa 1942.
Pete training in the UK prior to being deployed to North Africa. Photo circa 1942.
Pete training in the UK prior to being deployed to North Africa. Photo circa 1942.
Pete's grave in Tunisia.
Pete’s grave in Tunisia.
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