May 28, 2012, - 12:01 am
While I am away observing the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, like you I’m also remembering our fallen soldiers, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and gave their lives. But I try to do this every single day. It’s not something we should reserve for one day a year. It’s far more important than that. Their lives are far more important than just one day.
U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Moore @ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Photo by H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)
Michigan Natl Guard Staff Sgt. Duane Dreasky is Buried in Arlington Natl. Cemetery
On Friday, USA Today ran several Memorial Day letters to the editor, all of them great. Particularly touching, on-point, and important to me were these three by men who served and survived. I’ve posted them, below, and urge you to read (along with the rest at the link above):
I will mark this Memorial Day by remembering Larry Allen, a fallen Marine from Decatur, Ga.
On June 18, 1970, somewhere in Vietnam, our squad ran into an ambush and was surrounded. We were taking heavy fire from the enemy we could not see. We were advancing when Larry stepped directly in front of me and one other Marine, taking a bullet wound in the lower stomach, meant for us. As he lay dying before us, I will never forget the helplessness I felt. The firefight was so intense that our choppers could not get in to help Larry and the other wounded. That day, we lost a wonderful 18-year-old Marine who not long before was running high school track in Georgia.
I salute you, Larry. Thanks for giving two of us our lives. Semper fi, my friend.
Terry Franks; Springville, Ala.
Thank you, Larry Allen and Terry Franks, for your service and sacrifice to America. Semper Fi.
Five of us graduated from high school together as World War II began. We felt it our patriotic duty to enlist in the service of our country. We remained friends over the years.
Now at age 90, I am the sole survivor of the original five, so Memorial Day is a personal day of remembrance for me as an American serviceman and patriot.
Will Ketner; Harrisburg, Pa.
Thank you Mr. Ketner for your service to our country.
Memorial Day will soon be here. It is the most important day of patriotic observance.
Before it was a day of solemn recognition of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, today it has lost its true meaning. People have become selfish, forgetting to give up a little time to honor those men and women who died for the freedoms we have. This became more evident when Congress passed an act that changed Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May. It became a three-day weekend, anticipated for family outings, picnics, the start of vacation season and, oh yes, the shopping.
There was a time when stores were closed and entire towns gathered to honor the war dead, truly paying their respects. Those times are gone, but not for everyone. When you are having a picnic or you are on vacation, think of the men and women who have died for the freedom we enjoy, and also remember those men and women now serving, keeping us safe. God Bless America, and God keep those serving, safe.
Robert A. DeMitry; Sergeant, U.S. Army retired; Elk Creek, Mo.
Amen to all that, Sgt. DeMitry. But the sales on sunscreen and barbecues cannot stop a single moment for something far more important and meaningful. We must keep on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Col. Tom Manion lost his son First Lt. Travis Manion, a 26-year-old who gave his life to save two of his wounded fellow soldiers. His touching, meaningful Wall Street Journal op-ed about the many brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives is a must read. Here is part of it:
I served in the military for 30 years. But it was impossible to fully understand the sacrifices of our troops and their families until April 29, 2007, the day my son, First Lt. Travis Manion, was killed in Iraq.
Travis was just 26 years old when an enemy sniper’s bullet pierced his heart after he had just helped save two wounded comrades. Even though our family knew the risks of Travis fighting on the violent streets of Fallujah, being notified of his death on a warm Sunday afternoon in Doylestown, Pa., was the worst moment of our lives.
While my son’s life was relatively short, I spend every day marveling at his courage and wisdom. Before his second and final combat deployment, Travis said he wanted to go back to Iraq in order to spare a less-experienced Marine from going in his place. His words—”If not me, then who . . . “—continue to inspire me.
My son is one of thousands to die in combat since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Because of their sacrifices, as well as the heroism of previous generations, Memorial Day 2012 should have tremendous importance to our entire nation, with an impact stretching far beyond one day on the calendar.
In Afghanistan, tens of thousands of American troops continue to sweat, fight and bleed. In April alone, 35 U.S. troops were killed there, including Army Capt. Nick Rozanski, 36, who made the difficult decision to leave his wife and children to serve our country overseas.
“My brother didn’t necessarily have to go to Afghanistan,” Spc. Alex Rozanski, Nick’s younger brother and fellow Ohio National Guard soldier, said. “He chose to because he felt an obligation.” . . .
When my son died in Iraq, his U.S. Naval Academy roommate, Brendan Looney, was in the middle of BUD/S (basic underwater demolition) training to become a Navy SEAL. Devastated by his good friend’s death, Brendan called us in anguish, telling my wife and me that losing Travis was too much for him to handle during the grueling training regimen.
Lt. Brendan Looney overcame his grief to become “Honor Man” of his SEAL class, and he served in Iraq before later deploying to Afghanistan. On Sept. 21, 2010, after completing 58 combat missions, Brendan died with eight fellow warriors when their helicopter crashed in Zabul province. He was 29. Brendan and Travis now rest side-by-side in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. . . .
Our nation’s military families continue to serve. Even after more than a decade of war, these remarkable men and women are still stepping forward.
As the father of a fallen Marine, I hope Americans will treat this Memorial Day as more than a time for pools to open, for barbecues or for a holiday from work. It should be a solemn day to remember heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice, and also a stark reminder that our country is still at war.
Graves of Some of Our Fallen Heroes at Arlington National Cemetery
Then, there is the life-long quest by the late Lt. Jose Holguin, who took to heart the U.S. Army Soldier’s Creed: “I will never leave a fallen comrade.” He spent his entire life and a good deal of his earnings searching for and locating the remains of his brothers in arms who died in the burning B-17, nicknamed the “Naughty But Nice,” shot down in World War II. You must read the whole touching story, but here is a taste:
In the night, Lt. Jose Holguin had parachuted from a burning B-17. Painted on its nose were a scantily clad woman and the words “Naughty but Nice.” Now the bomber lay before him in pieces.
He hobbled to the plane’s mid-section, where he saw the charred, mangled bodies of two of his nine comrades. He fired his pistol twice, signaling the crew to rendezvous. He heard nothing in return.
This is when he made his hardest decision — to flee — and his most important promise, one as old as war. “I told the men that I couldn’t take them with me,” he would recall. “But I would be back to take care of them.”
That was June 26, 1943, on an island in the Southwest Pacific, at the height of World War II. . . . Having survived the crash, he spent two years as a POW. After the war, like most veterans, he moved on. But he didn’t forget his promise to the men of Naughty but Nice. He couldn’t; it was “like a rumble inside me,” he said. And it got louder and louder.
At noon one Saturday two years ago, Leonard Gionet found two soldiers at his door in Portland, Ore. They said the remains of his father Leonard — who was killed 67 years earlier, when Gionet was 6 months old — had been identified.
The elder Gionet went down with Naughty but Nice, having never seen his son. Growing up, Leonard had to construct a father out of photos, stories and his father’s medals, which were pinned on Leonard at a ceremony when he was 3. The family had long given up hope of having anything to bury or any grave to visit.
Now, he marveled, these soldiers are here as if my father died in Afghanistan. The discovery was not entirely unexpected; Gionet knew about Jose Holguin. . . .
The rumble inside him would not be still. By 1981, Holguin — his children largely raised and educated — had time and money to make good on his promise. . . .
At the grave they thought not only of the nine who died in the crash, but of the one who survived. “He could have gone on with his life,” Leonard Gionet says of Jose Holguin. “But he thought that was his duty, to bring them home.”
You must read the whole heroic story of one soldier’s promise and lifelong mission to bring his fellow troops home to their final resting places.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
My friend, Major James Key, Chaplain for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, grew up in South Central L.A., was Arlington National Cemetery Chaplain, and also served as a soldier in the Iraq war. He wrote a great column remembering our brave, fallen soldiers, and here are some excerpts:
Army Major James Key
When I was much younger, Memorial Day to me meant a day off from school, a cookout in the park and the start of the summer vacation season.
Today, maturity and my military service have made me realize that the real heroes of our nation don’t earn million-dollar salaries, drive expensive cars or wear fancy clothes. They wear military uniforms, earn meager salaries and serve with little notoriety. . . .
Today, there are permanent empty chairs at the dinner tables of many families across America, which should remind us all that the price of freedom is still very high.
Every time I preside over a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, I’m reminded of this harsh reality. The history of America is replete with stories of young people leaving home to join the military and fight in wars. And while the families of these troops are very proud, no doubt somewhere deep in their soul they must wonder whether their loved ones will make it home safe.
As you celebrate this holiday, remember that these service men and women are everyday people who have dared to answer the clarion call to serve. They come from hard-working families and hail from big cities, small country towns and humble suburban neighborhoods. . . .
This Monday, let us not allow the commercialization of this holiday to upstage the significance of Memorial Day, which began in 1868 when members of the Grand Army of the Republic heeded the request of their commander, Gen. John A. Logan, to decorate the graves of their fallen compatriots. It has since become the day on which the U.S. honors the dead of all its wars.
So throughout this weekend, and especially on Monday, remember the empty chairs. These brave souls have given their lives so we can continue to enjoy the liberty that our forefathers envisioned for us all.
It’s trite but true: they died so we could be free. Thank you to all of the men who gave their lives so we could continue on with our own lives in freedom, and all of those who survived but gave their limbs or were severely wounded, or endured unspeakable horrors, so we could go about our business in freedom. And thanks to those who served and came back in one piece. Let’s remember all of them 365 days of the year. G-d bless them all.
And while we remember those who gave their lives for America, please also say a prayer for those who are still alive and serving overseas and on our shores (the Fort Hood massacre showed us all that they risk their lives even in the U.S. every single day). Let’s pray that they will return home and to civilian life alive and free.
Join me in saying a prayer especially for the American troops who are still in Afghanistan, risking their lives to hand out candy to and build roads for those who hate us and want to kill them. Many of them died and, sadly, many more will continue to die because they were never allowed to actually fight a real war and win their battles, and instead were forced into a losing political battle of “hearts and minds” BS that will never–and can never–be won. They are forced to serve in bolstering the Hamid Karzai corruptocracy, another losing battle that isn’t worthy of even a single life of our brave American boys and men.
Let’s bring them all home soon, so that we will not mourn any more of them next Memorial Day.
G-d Bless Them. And G-d Bless America.
Graves of American Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives in WWII @ Normandy
Tags: 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, Alabama, Alex Rozanski, Arlington National Cemetery, Army Captain Nick Rozanski, Brendan Looney, Doylestown, Elk Creek, fallen heroes, fallen soldiers, Fallujah, First Lt. Travis Manion, HARRISBURG, Jose Holguin, Larry Allen, Leonard Gionet, Lt. Brendan Looney, Lt. Jose Holguin, Major James Key, Memorial Day, Memorial Day 2012, Missouri, Naughty But Nice, Nick Rozanski, Pennsylvania, Robert A. DeMitry, Robert DeMitry, Spc. Alex Rozanski, Springville, Terry Franks, Thomas Manion, Tom Manion, Travis Manion, Vietnam, Will Ketner, Zabul, Zabul province