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“I have told more in this living drama than any history book, or written story could ever tell”

by Lavada Begley Peterson - November 10, 2003

Lavada Begley Peterson honors the memory of her brother Tommy, who fought in WWII.


Lavada and Richelle go over notes for a veterans’ Digital Story

My thoughts are locked into a scene I lived over fifty years ago. It was the day I ran up the steps of the old house, hurriedly opened the screen door, rushed into the kitchen and found my parents sitting at the kitchen table. The telegram was on the red-checkered tablecloth. The telegram that said Tommy, my only brother, had been killed in action in the Pacific.

War is a force like no other. The memories don’t wait to be invited in; they simply open the door of your emotions, walk in and sit down. The memories of long ago are forever with me. 

When I visit the little town where I grew up I often go to the country cemetery nestled among the farmlands. Since my family never received Tommy’s body my mom and dad placed a plaque in the cemetery in memory of their son. I sit near the plaque, listen to the birds sing, and watch the cottonwood leaves sway in the breeze and recall those days of long ago. 

When I drive through the town of Madera I think of the World War II Memorial in the city park. The names of the Madera County boys, who were killed in the war, are engraved on the Memorial. My brother’s name is in the “B” list. I have been told his name is also listed on the U.S.S. Yorktown plaque honoring the sixteen Marines killed on the U.S.S. Saratoga.

Lavada (upper left) with her family, before the war (Tommy is at lower right)

In l998 I visited the Punch Bowl Memorial in Hawaii. I walked down the path with the stone walls lined up one after the other. I finally found my brother’s name, Pfc.Thomas Begley. I put my hand on the cold, hard cement and wept.

I am grateful to my country for these memorials, but as wonderful as they are, cement and a plaque can’t tell the personal story of my brother. It was only after I discovered the Stories of Service program did I realize I could leave a living memorial for him. I could show the love between my brother and me, his friendly smile, his warm way with people, his love for his country and even his last few moments of life. I was able to tell his story in my own words using family pictures, music from the time and even the battle when he was killed. I have told more in this living drama than any history book, or written story could ever tell.

Even though my years are limited, my brother’s digital story will live forever.   I appreciate the work of the staff and youth volunteers at the Digital Clubhouse Network. Through their work, countless other families will have a special tribute to their veterans that will last down through the ages. Thank you.

More Images:

Tommy in uniform

Lavada and Marsha Parham, daughter of Gaye Pare, embrace at a Stories of Service Event


Related Stories (Videos)

Tommy's Story

Lavada Begley Peterson remembers her brother, Tommy, lost in WWII.

The Chowchilla Boys



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