May 28, 2012, - 12:01 am

Memorial Day: Remember Our Fallen American Heroes Every Day

By Debbie Schlussel

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.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Moore @ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Photo by H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Graves of American Soldiers Who Gave Their Lives in WWII @ Normandy

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13 Responses

At least in the US they haven’t started (yet?) to honor the enemy soldiers or even worse, the traitors who joined the enemy and enlisted on their side as they have been doing/trying to do in the Netherlands…

Hans on May 28, 2012 at 2:45 am

Thank you for this Memorial Day writing Debbie.

Confederate South on May 28, 2012 at 4:49 am

As a disabled vet, I honor Memorial Day every day.

Paul Hosse' on May 28, 2012 at 9:17 am

We should get out of Afghanistan – if we don’t plan to win – its immoral and criminal to use our troops as sitting ducks for our politicians’ egos. We promised after Vietnam we’d never again leave our soldiers in harms’ way in unclear and undefined missions wasting their lives for no good reason.

The families mourning this day deserve our respect and appreciation – not just on Memorial Day but every day of the year as long as America exists.

G-d bless America and let’s remember all those who served and were wounded and died so the rest of us could live in our free country. Let’s never take their sacrifice for granted. To America’s servicemen and women: we are all in your debt and we owe you gratitude we can never truly repay!

May every one have a truly Blessed and Solemn Memorial Day!

NormanF on May 28, 2012 at 11:40 am

@NormanF – “:To America’s servicemen and women: we are all in your debt and we owe you gratitude we can never truly repay!”

I agree, but Memorial Day is specifically set aside to pay tribute to those who gave their lives. While we should always be mindful of those who serve, there is Veterans Day for that purpose.

IMO, it dilutes the solemnness of Memorial Day when people feel they have to throw in an obligatory “and thanks to all servicemen…” on Memorial Day.

And BTW, I’m a distinguished vet who served honorably and proudly and I get annoyed when I hear so many people these days throwing that in on Memorial Day.

Go ahead and thank those who serve and those who served honorably, but let’s give all due respect at least on this one day to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

DS_ROCKS! on May 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Terrific article Ms. Schlussel, and I’m glad you’re remembering those who fought for our freedoms and liberties and currently serving this republic and defending our liberties, freedoms, etc., without them, we’ll be serfs.

In other news, the koran-thumping motherfreakers in Indonesia cancelled Lady Gaga’s show this coming weekend, these uneducated knuckle-draggers said that they don’t like the way she dances, her clothing is too racy, etc. And I agree with one of my freinds on facebook who’s an “ex-muslim” herself (she’s arabic of Palestinian lineage), she said that islam drops the IQ by atleast 200 points, and those islamists in Indonesia proved the girls point!

http://entertainment.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/27/11903199-lady-gaga-cancels-indonesia-concert-amid-muslim-protest-fears?lite

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on May 28, 2012 at 12:35 pm

“…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.”

I hate this more than anything. I remember it the OLD and proper way.

I remember the soldiers who died for OUR freedom and I get sad when I see narcissistic and indifferent Americans forgetting about our troops and that freedom isn’t free.

I appreciate the sacrifice because I love freedom very much!

Skunky on May 28, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Hey Sean “uneducated knuckle dragggers” I like that. Can I use it? It accurately describes these buffoons who on the one hand behead “nonbelievers” like Daniel Pearl but get their rags in a knot over the Madonna knock off Lady Gaga. As a retired veteran it does me great honor to thank those fallen members of the greatest fighting force on the planet. It also pains me to watch our doofus CIC the First Sasquatch along with Plugs and Doktor J Biden, Ph.Dud giving speeches at various memorials. Democrats like Odummer and Co. have a long history of screwing the military over and it just seems hollow for the Presidental Beanpole to sully the memories of people far better than he’ll ever be.

Ken b on May 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm

May 26th, right before Memorial Day, is a big deal to my family.

Ninety-ive years ago on May 26th, 1917, my Grandfather Charles, a Marine disembarked in France to win the war “over there”. Some 20 days later, he found himself in a charnel house known as Belleau Woods. Sustaining machine gun wounds in the stomache and mustard gassed, his full measure of devotion, was brief and bloody, although he survived his wounds until after the war. Descriptions of the battle seem, to me, understated in view of the astonishing casualties.

“Overall, the woods were attacked by the Marines a total of six times before they could successfully expel the Germans. They fought off parts of five divisions of Germans, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in close combat.”

“On his right, the Marines of Major Meyer’s 3/6 Battalion swept into the southern end of Belleau Wood and encountered heavy machine gun fire, sharpshooters and barbed wire. Marines and German infantrymen were soon engaged in heavy hand-to-hand fighting. The casualties sustained on this day were the highest in Marine Corps history to that time. Some 31 officers and 1,056 men of the Marine brigade were casualties. However, the Marines now had a foothold in Belleau Wood.”

At Belleau Woods U.S. forces suffered 9,777 casualties, included 1,811 killed. Many are buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.

Seventy years ago, on May 26th 1940, my father Leonard was preparing on board the USS New Orleans for the Battle of Midway (June 6th 1942.). Previously, Leonard was being processed out of the Navy at Pearl Harbor’s Schofield Barracks on Dec. 7th 1941 and had one more week to serve. After the Japanese attack, Uncle Sam decided that it just wouldn’t be party without Leo, and he was extended indefinitely.

My entire family is lucky like that.

After surviving the Battles of Coral Sea, Midway and Eastern Solomons Leonard ran up against it at the Battle of Tassafaronga. A Japanese torpedo took the bow off of the ship and with it, my dad’s best friend along with 200 others. The New Orleans had to sail backwards at a speed of one knot into Sydney Austrailia for repairs through enemy waters. No one slept.

Check out the picture of my dad’s ship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NewOrleansTulagiBowMissing.jpg

Finishing his service as a Chief Water tender (Snipe) Leonard was in 10 Naval engagements under fire and was mustered out at the end of the war. He was proud of his service and actually shot down a Japanese Zero when all the guys on the starboard gun mount were killed. I think he said it was a .50 Cal.

My dad didn’t make a big deal about Memorial Day, May 26th was also my brother’s birthday and pop was more interested in the future than the past. So, we rarely talked about his War Time experience until late in his life. When we did, he recounted his experiences with a clinical detatchment that seemed to me an effort to protect anyone hearing his story from the real horrors he had seen. He was descriptive in general, but reserved in detail.

Those kids coming home today from Iraq and Afghanistan, processed through Walter Reed, or feet first in a box might feel the same way.

In our involvement in foreign wars over the last 100 years we have seen success and failure, but the one constant promised by Churchill still rings true – that it’s blood, tears, toil and sweat . That crucible borne by those veterans of our freshly remembered past and those young men and women who risk their lives today, should be honored and revered, no matter our political differences and personal preferences.

I was hoping, that maybe the kcconfidential community, might take a minute away from the bar b que and parties to share some of their own familial experiences, personal or otherwise in honor of our fallen comrades in arms.

Thanks Debbie, your the best!

God Bless America, God Bless You and Your Families this Memorial Day.

chuck on May 29, 2012 at 12:39 pm

DS,

Kevin Bacon’s “Taking Chance” is a moving tribute to all those who have given all for our country.

Were you going to review this movie?

Thanks for your article and your sharing your father’s service.

P: I’ve reviewed the movie on this site in the past and praised it. Please try my search engine. Thanks. DS

Panhandle on May 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    DS,

    “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.”

    Good to know that you think the whole thing could have been sorted out quickly if US troops had gone in with all guns blazing and shot every Afghan in sight. Are you not aware that both the UK and the Soviet Union failed to make this policy work in this past? Before you say it, I don’t believe that US soldiers are braver or cleverer than those of either of these other countries, and are therefore no more likely to succeed.

    C J Walters on May 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm

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