May 25, 2009, - 12:39 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
**** SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE ****
Often repeated but true and still as poignant, today we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could remain free. They died in the line of duty or soon thereafter from the injuries. They are what today is all about. It is somber, not celebratory. That all but their memories are lost we mourn, their contributions and service to our country we remember.
U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Moore @ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
(Photo by H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)
A very poignant piece by Captain James Key, a U.S. Army chaplain whose great work I admire and whose moving writing I’ve quoted many times on this site (including here and here), appeared in Friday’s USA Today. Key, who served in Iraq, is now stationed at Arlington National Cemetery. (Since my last name is “Key” in Yiddish (and German), he and I have joked that we are like family.) Here’s part of his excellent, very touching piece:
Over the past few months, I’ve been stationed at Arlington National Cemetery, one of our nation’s most sacred shrines and a testament to the sacrifices made by fellow Americans to uphold our country’s democratic ideals and personal freedoms. . . .
Each day, as I walk among the headstones lining these rolling hills, I’m mindful that more than 300,000 veterans and their dependents are buried here. From Pierre L’Enfant, who served as George Washington’s aide during the American Revolution, to casualties from the war on terrorism, the veterans buried at Arlington represent every war in which the U.S. has fought.
Initially, I thought this assignment would be an emotional drain on my soul. Instead, this experience has already left an indelible mark on my life. I’ve conducted more than 100 services here, ministering to a diverse cross section of America.
Capt. James Key, U.S. Army Chaplain
While prominent military and civilian figures are buried here, the majority of the services I’ve conducted have been for ordinary people. Their faces are unknown to most Americans, and their stories have not been documented in history books or on the evening news. Nevertheless, their sacrifice must not go unnoticed. They served their country with honor and dignity. Those of us who wear a military uniform stand tall and proud because of those who came before us.
This Memorial Day, many families of these servicemembers will visit Arlington and observe this day as it was meant to be observed – with solemnity and with honor. . . .
I’ve seen a grieving family smile when I’ve reminded them at the end of a service that old soldiers never die. They just fade away to a better place where every day is Sunday, and the Sabbath hath no end. . . . I’m blessed to have the opportunity to give some solace to the families whose loved ones we honor this day.
Natl Guard Staff Sgt. Duane Dreasky is Buried in Arlington Natl. Cemetery
Today we remember great Americans, like Michigan National Guardsman Sgt. Duane Dreasky (my posts about him here, here here, here, here, and here), who volunteered to go to Iraq, even though–after a year serving at Guantanamo Bay–he was assigned to stay here in comfort as a recruiter. He died in2007, after a valiant 8-month fight to survive wounds from a terrorist attack near Habbaniyah, Iraq. The heroic Dreasky suffered burns over 75% of his body, but still tried to salute President Bush when he visited his bedside.
Sometimes they are physically below us and we may not know it, but I believe that those who died for our country are, in spirit and soul, always smiling and looking down upon us from above, because they did the ultimate good deed.
Graves of American Soldiers Who Died @ Normandy in WWII
(Note: No Crescents Anywhere)
**** UPDATE: My friend, the great Ruth S. King writes:
Two Jewish brothers, Henry (Heshy) King, age 20 and George King 24 both died in the Normandy invasion. Heshy never made it off the beach, and George was killed in combat in France.
Heshy had an operation so that he could serve and George volunteered for combat because he did not like being a military police and roughing up kids who got drunk.
The were my husband’s brothers. I have their pictures forever young.
President Roosevelt sent a message to the families of the fallen….It said, “He stands in a long line of patriots who died so that freedom might live, and through him, freedom lives in a way that humbles the undertakings of most men.”
Obama would apologize to the enemies as well as the Gold Star mothers and wives and sweethearts and siblings and children who lost their loved ones.