Families celebrate bittersweet Memorial Day - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Families celebrate bittersweet Memorial Day

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May 26, 2003

Albany- Dianne Hill and her family talk about Memorial Day cookout plans. But this year there will be an empty place at the table.

"He went over to Kuwait and then he went to Baghdad with the 3rd infantry," says Hill.

19 year old Damechea Hill left for war in January. His family is still trying to get used to the idea of celebrating holidays without him.

"I know he wants to be with us, I know that," his mother adds. "I miss him because he's mostly here in and out, in and out and I'm used to him coming in and he's not here," explains Hill's grandmother Mary Peterson.

"It's not going to be easy because he loves ribs, so he's not going to be here to eat any." Still the family holds on to each other as they wait for Damechea's safe return.

Across town, Darius Harpe's family also struggles with him being in Iraq during the holiday. "He'll usually come home. He's stationed in North Carolina, but he'll come home and we'll have a cookout or whatever, but we're handling it pretty good," says Harpe's sister, Lamonica Anderson.

Harpe e-mails his family almost daily, still family members long to see his face again. "The picture that's when he first went in the marines, when he first became a sergeant, and the candle we are burning it until, we lit it when he left and we're going to let it burn until he gets back," explains his grandmother, Georgia Clark.

"He gonna be home soon, and we'll probably have our Memorial Day in July when everybody comes together and we'll be able to talk and reminisce on what's going on with him," adds Harpe's younger brother, Clinton Johnson.

For both families Memorial Day will be a time to remember past holidays with their loved ones and look forward to many more when they return.

Not only are Hill and Harpe missing the Memorial Day holiday, but they're also having to celebrate birthdays from afar. Harpe turned 28 last week, and Hill's mother will celebrate her birthday Thursday.

Posted at 6:05 PM elaine.armstrong@walb.com