A Ham Radio Memorial Day -COMMENTARY

Radio philosophy.

If you see amateur radio as being greater than the sum of its parts, then you already understand where I’m about to go and will find affirmation in this article. If you value amateur radio solely for its utilitarian (communication) purposes, then you’re missing out. There is personal enrichment and an “it” factor that makes it so special. Although ham radio is at its root a technical avocation, there is a deeper philosophical side that should not be dismissed. I recently experienced a ham radio Memorial Day that took me by complete surprise and made me refocus on why I do radio at all.

Not business as usual. ham radio Memorial Day  

I recently received a very compelling email from “Brian” in Oklahoma (name changed for privacy reasons). When I saw it pop up in my mail box I thought it was typical Off Grid Ham correspondence. It’s always a technical question, a comment about one of my articles, or similar routine business. ham radio Memorial Day 

What I got instead was a lengthy & very personal narrative that simultaneously had little and everything to do with amateur radio.

It was Brian’s account about how his brother got deeply involved with ham radio at an early age, flipped that passion into a Vietnam-era military career in communications, only to be never seen or heard from again after becoming a prisoner of war in 1968. No one knows exactly what happened to him. No remains were recovered and his death was never confirmed.

I cannot verify this story, but it is plausible and I believe it. Brian did not respond to a request for permission to reprint his email for this article, which is unfortunate because it’s a story worth retelling. It was a description of respect and admiration, and incredible pain when a loved one is lost in such an inexplicable way. Brian’s words just dripped with candor and sincerity. You can’t make that kind of sentiment up no matter how good a writer you are.

ham radio Memorial Day


No one is truly a master of their own fate.

We’re now five-plus decades after a young man disappeared while serving his country, leaving a long trail of heartbroken loved ones. Brian connected the dots as to how ham radio is relevant to all this. Now a ham himself, he uses his hobby as a link to his lost brother. In a sense, it’s a form of therapy for him. ham radio Memorial Day 

We can fairly conclude that, had big brother not possessed high level radio/electronics skills, his life would have gone in a different direction and this story would not be a story. But by definition fate is unpredictable. We can never know for sure what would happen if we did something else, whether it’s joining the military vs. remaining a civilian or crossing the street now or waiting three more seconds. All of our actions & decisions have an alternate “what if” consequence. ham radio Memorial Day 

My own life was also dramatically altered by amateur radio. I started with CB radio when I was about twelve years old. By time I turned fourteen I was a ham and hopelessly engrossed in learning everything I could about radio and electronics.  I look back at my life and am satisfied at how I turned that teenage fixation into a very lucrative & fulfilling career as a communications electronics technician. It gives me great pleasure knowing I’m doing what I wanted to do as a kid. Not many people can say that; I’ve been genuinely blessed.

Not every story has a happy ending.

Regrettably, as Brian from Oklahoma demonstrates, not every story is as cheerful as mine. Like me Brian sees amateur radio as not just a hobby.  It’s his way of honoring & remembering his lost brother. He gets solace from doing an activity his brother loved. A legacy lives on via amateur radio.

To extend this a little further, ham radio is Brian’s connection to me. I never met this guy. I know nothing about him beyond what he disclosed in his email. Yet, he decided to tell me, a total stranger, a very painful personal story. But for our shared enthusiasm for amateur radio, this interaction would have never happened. It was the most poignant and meaningful QSO I’ve ever had, and it didn’t even take place over a radio!

Seeking deeper purpose.

So why are you into amateur radio? Is it just a pastime, or is it something that is bigger than yourself? If you think it’s just a pastime, you’re missing out on a lot. The deeper purpose can be as simple as a way to spend quality time with your kids, or to make your community a better place. Your reasons do not have to be complicated. The point is that amateur radio is not and should not be just about radio. It as much an inward reflection as it is a communications medium.

Here in the United States, Memorial Day is coming up in a few weeks. Let’s remember guys like Brian, who live the true meaning of Memorial Day every moment of their lives. To the loved ones of the lost heroes, the day is not about barbecue and beer. We can’t ever make them whole again; we can appreciate that for Brian, and probably others like him, radio is not just a hobby. If you ever run across a stranger who thinks they might find a little inner peace by pouring their heart out to you just because you’re also a ham, be there for them.

9 thoughts on “A Ham Radio Memorial Day -COMMENTARY

  1. Pingback: Amateur Radio Weekly – Issue 285 • AmateurRadio.com

  2. Oliver Weßling

    Dear OM,
    Thank you for your very moving article on the importance of amateur radio as more than just a hobby. Her personal experiences, and those of Brian from Oklahoma, show that behind every ham there is a deeper philosophical side that should not be dismissed. I find it remarkable how this hobby brings people together and creates connections that transcend borders and distances.

    I think it’s important to remember that amateur radio isn’t just a way to communicate or gain technical knowledge, it also has a personal enrichment and an “it” factor that makes it so special might. It’s about having a passion and sharing it with others. I’m amazed how ham radio has become a form of therapy for Brian, helping him honor and remember his missing brother.

    Your article inspired me to seek deeper meaning in ham radio in my own life. It’s not just a pastime, it’s a way to connect with others and make a difference. I think it’s important to remember that our destiny is unpredictable and that every action and decision has an alternative consequence.

    Thank you for the insight into your and Brian’s story. I will certainly keep that in mind and try to find a deeper meaning in amateur radio in my own life.
    Sorry for my bad English…..
    vy 73 DG1YOW

    1. Chris Warren Post author

      Hi there Oliver, thanks for your great comment. Your English is just fine!

      I’m glad that you were able to grasp what I was going for with this article. For some hams, it really is just a hobby or a tool to be used for communication. There’s nothing wrong with that, but those folks are missing out on an aspect of the hobby that could really transform Tham and make them better as a person.

  3. sherry smith

    Great Read!!

    I know little about ham radio but am inspired by the comradery.

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