May 26, 2008, - 10:48 am

Memorial Day: They Gave Their Lives So We Could Be Free

By Debbie Schlussel
I don’t think I can add to my Memorial Day post, last year, remembering and honoring our fallen troops, so I’m reposting excerpts of it, below. I wrote it just after I learned that my late father, a proud U.S. Army veteran, was dying of cancer. (Blessed Be His Memory.) He was always proud of our American troops and instilled in me that lifelong appreciation of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that his family, my family, could be free, after having escaped the anti-Semitism of Europe.

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U.S. Army Sgt. Chris Moore @ the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

(Photo by H. Darr Beiser/USA Today)

I’d also like to draw your attention to this EXCELLENT USA Today cover story from Friday, “Friends, Comrades Live on in Hearts of Iraq Veterans: Memories of Fallen Friends–Americans Remember Comrades Lost in Battle in Iraq and Afghanistan,” detailing a few who gave their lives and sacrificed in the service of our country. All of them are impressive people and men and women of incredible courage.
Among the nine heroic stories are those of Army Reserve Sgt. James “Ski” Witkowski, who blocked a grenade with his body to spare the lives of three soldiers in his Humvee; and Army Col. Brian Allgood, a doctor and rising star, who died in 2007, when insurgent terrorists shot down the American Black Hawk helicopter in which he was riding to go treat more American wounded; and Army Staff Sgt. Fernando Santos, killed in the 14th month of his third combat deployment of Iraq.
Read all of their touching stories of heroism and the ultimate in American patriotism.
***
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Natl Guard Staff Sgt. Duane Dreasky is Buried in Arlington Natl. Cemetery

It’s trite but true: Today is a day that’s much more than hot dogs and picnics. It’s far more important. It’s about remembering those who gave their lives (and limbs) so that we could be and remain–to this day–free. Freedom isn’t free. For or against the war? Either way, they gave their lives so that you could travel, gather, associate, and speak your mind.
They’re 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, last year, 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.
Today, I think not just of those who gave their lives, but those who’ve returned home missing physical parts of themselves–the many amputees and other war-wounded, who were lucky enough to survive, but who also made a great sacrifice.
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Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke, Jr., Iraq War Vet, Hugs Pearl Harbor Survivor/WWII Vet Houston James (Graunke Lost a Leg, Hand, and Eye Defusing a Bomb in Iraq)

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But many of us don’t think about the troops much. You might be on a plane, reading the paper or a magazine, and not know or appreciate that one of our first-class American Heroes is riding beneath you . . .
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. . . . In the media, my friend, Peter Collier, writes in an excellent must-read Wall Street Journal piece, about how the New York Times spent 32 front-page days screaming and whining about Abu Ghraib, but not a single front page and hardly a mention to our military heroes who gave their lives in battle. Ditto for the rest of the media:

Once we knew who and what to honor on Memorial Day: Those who had given all their tomorrows, as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, for our todays. But in a world saturated with selfhood, where every death is by definition a death in vain, the notion of sacrifice today provokes puzzlement more often than admiration. We support the troops, of course, but we also believe that war, being hell, can easily touch them with an evil no cause for engagement can wash away. And in any case we are more comfortable supporting them as victims than as warriors.
Former football star Pat Tillman and Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham were killed on the same day: April 22, 2004. But as details of his death fitfully emerged from Afghanistan, Tillman has become a metaphor for the current conflict — a victim of fratricide, disillusionment, coverup and possibly conspiracy. By comparison, Dunham, who saved several of his comrades in Iraq by falling on an insurgent’s grenade, is the unknown soldier. The New York Times, which featured Abu Ghraib on its front page for 32 consecutive days, put the story of Dunham’s Medal of Honor on the third page of section B.

Read his whole article, in which he details the bravery and courage of some of our Medal of Honor recipients.
But despite what American officials and institutions do at the top, the American people care about you, our soldiers, our fighting men and women. To all of our American soldiers, living and dead, we salute you, we pray for you, we appreciate you, and we thank you for fighting for our freedom and the continued existence of our beloved country. To those for whom Memorial Day is meant, thank you for making the ultimate sacrifice so that we may be free. Rest in Peace.

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Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

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Graves of Some of Our Fallen Heroes at Arlington National Cemetery

***
Look up your relatives’/family’s military history (war records, draft cards, gravestone info) from 1607 through the end of the Vietnam War on Ancestry.com’s U.S. Military Collection, free until the anniversary of D-Day, June 6th. It’s very cool. I found a lot of my Schlussel relatives’ military info dating back to the 1800s, including Col. Albert H. Schlussel of the U.S. Air Force, who served in WWII and Korea and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (FYI, the Ancestry.com Military Collection is not complete, as I noticed many members of my family, who were drafted (or enlisted) and served, are missing from the list.
(Thanks to the MySpace page of USMC 03 Curt, from which I got some of the photos on this page and where you will find many more touching pics of our brave men and women.)

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12 Responses

What a beautiful post-the story about the guardsman was wonderful. thanks vets

mindy1 on May 26, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Great article. I love this web site.

samurai on May 26, 2008 at 1:16 pm

A wonderful and moving Memorial Day post, Debbie.
I, for one, am thankful for all American troops, both past and present who have served this country. On March 31st, my father-in-law passed away. He was a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II and stationed in Guam. He didn’t like to talk about the experiences he had there. At his funeral a Marine honor guard presented my Mother-in-law with the flag that draped his coffin. It was an extremely moving ceremony. So this Memorial Day is a little more poignant for my wife and myself.
I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day. I invite you and your readers to my blog to see my Memorial Day tribute.

Carl on May 26, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Thank you, Debbie, for your post. At times like these, in fact, at any time, words just don’t seem adequate to thank our Vets for their service and their sacrifices…
In our local paper today, there is a story of a local artist who moved here from Arizona to find a smaller town with less people. She discovered a hidden talent of artistic expression and has used it to honor our servicemen and women. Her website is http://www.BransonHands.com and, though I haven’t seen it (will momentarily), hopefully it has at least a short history of her artistic path. The story may be available on our newspaper’s site, http://www.chieftain.com and is worth a read. Her story of how she came to honor the military is heartwarming.
Thank you, all our soldiers, wherever your duty stations have taken you. You are part of an elite military family spanning centuries of service. Thank you. From an insignificant ex-army clerk, I “whip a crisp one (i.e. salute) to you”…

Floyd R. Turbo on May 26, 2008 at 2:10 pm

All the sacrifice by patriots is wasted on currupt and timid traitors in the State Dept. and White House, if someone can see that..

Alert on May 26, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Went to Carl’s blog. Tears streaming down the face…wonderful tribute.

Floyd R. Turbo on May 26, 2008 at 2:48 pm

HEY ALERT, WHY DON’T YOU SAVE YOUR JERK OFF POST FOR ANOTHER TIME AND PLACE.I AIN’T A FAN OF THE DEMS IN CONGRESS BUT I DON’T BRING IT UP ON A DAY AND ARTICLE LIKE THIS ONE. YOU’D PROBABLY POINT OUT THAT A BRIDE SHOULDN’T BE WEARING WHITE AT A WEDDING.

samurai on May 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Your a patriot Karl.

samurai on May 26, 2008 at 8:35 pm

Debbie, I visited my local VA cemetery today, which contains a significant number of Jewish graves. These are randonly interspersed with the non-Jewish graves. On the one hand it’s good PR, but still it bothers me. Jewish veterans have to choose between a VA military burial and a proper religious burial. Why can’t the VA make Jewish sections in the cemetery, as some state operated military cemeteries do?

Anonymous1 on May 26, 2008 at 8:58 pm

It is amazing that so many young men and women join our armed forces. They sign up to give, and sometimes everything is taken from them, including their lives. It is humbling to think that we still have men and women of such caliber among us. It should shame those who take everthing, and give nothing in return but a snarl or smerk.

Worry01 on May 27, 2008 at 12:49 am

Amen… amen.
Thank you to our armed forces and our free people of these United States for being real citizens and defending all our homes and families, along with our futures of liberty agency.
Thanks to Debbie for these photos – they are a true history of our country.

bhparkman on May 27, 2008 at 12:57 am

Thank You Debbie for such a beautiful and heart filled tribute to our Soldiers. No Country like America. Home of the Brave and Land of the Free.
God Bless you
Danny

dannygirl on May 27, 2008 at 11:00 am

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