Memorial Day -2008 Posted by: McQ
on Monday, May 26, 2008
The following is the "Someone You Should Know" script for last night's segment on WRKO's "Pundit Review Radio" that I do weekly. I want to post it as a Memorial Day tribute to all of those in the US military who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic established Memorial Day or Decoration Day as the national day to decorate the graves of the Civil War soldiers with flowers. Major General John A. Logan appointed May 30 as the day to be observed. Arlington National Cemetery had the first observance of the day on a grand scale. The place was appropriate as it already housed graves of over 20,000 Union dead and several hundred Confederate dead. Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the meeting and the center point of these Memorial Day ceremonies was the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion. Speeches were followed by a march of soldiers' children and orphans and members of the GAR through the cemetery strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves. They also recited prayers and sang hymns for the dead.
Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the sacrifice and service of the men and women of the US military. The American military is, has always been and will always be the best of the best. We will continue to shower them with appreciation, support and prayers, as we should. Memorial Day is an opportunity for us to express the special place they have in the hearts of America’s citizens by honoring those who have served and especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
It is a time to remember heroes like SFC Paul Ray Smith, United States Army, who organized the defense of his badly outnumbered unit after a surprise attack, personally leading the fight, evacuating 3 wounded soldiers and then manning a .50-caliber machine gun under withering fire. His action single-handedly held off the enemy attackers until reinforcements could arrive even though he was mortally wounded in the effort.
PFC Ross McGinnis, United States Army. Although he could have safely evacuated the vehicle in which an enemy hand-grenade landed, chose instead to sacrifice himself by smothering the grenade with his body, thereby saving three others who couldn’t have gotten out in time.
LT. (SEAL) Patrick Murphy, United States Navy, who, without hesitation, moved directly into the line of fire of a Taliban force which outnumbered his own 25 to 1 in order to secure communications with his higher headquarters in an effort to save his team. It was the only area in which clear communications could be established. Although shot twice and mortally wounded during the attempt, LT Murphy completed the call for help.
PO2 (SEAL) Michael Mansoor, United States Navy, who, near Ramadi, Iraq sacrificed his life by leaping on a grenade thereby saving two of his SEAL team mates.
And CPL Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps, who, upon seeing a grenade that endangered his team, used his body and helmet to absorb the blast, thereby saving at least two of them when it exploded.
All gave their lives for their country and comrades in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all were awarded the Medal of Honor for their exceptional valor.
It is a time to remember all who have fallen in the service of our nation. One such hero we lost this year was a fine American and a fellow blogger, beloved by all – Andrew Olmsted.
I met Andrew on-line several years ago and was privileged to exchange emails with him over those years about various subjects. He was a major in the Army reserve who, as most who volunteer do, finally managed to find a way to Iraq. As I understand it, he was involved in the tough, demanding and dangerous job of training the Iraqi Army when he was killed. He left a final blog post that was to be posted in case of his death and I want to share a part of it. Partly to give you a sense of the man, his sense of humor, his sense of honor and his sense of duty. Partly to give you an idea of how he felt about what he did. Published on January 4th of this year, in part, he said:
What I don't want this to be is a chance for me, or anyone else, to be maudlin. I'm dead. That’s terrible, at least for me and my family and friends. But all the tears in the world aren't going to bring me back, so I would prefer that people remember the good things about me rather than mourning my loss. (If it turns out a specific number of tears will, in fact, bring me back to life, then by all means, break out the onions.) I had a pretty good life… Sure, all things being equal I would have preferred to have more time, but I have no business complaining with all the good fortune I've enjoyed in my life ...
I suppose I should speak to the circumstances of my death. It would be nice to believe that I died leading men in battle, preferably saving their lives at the cost of my own. More likely I was caught by a marksman or an IED ...
I do ask (not that I'm in a position to enforce this) that no one try to use my death to further their political purposes. I went to Iraq and did what I did for my reasons, not yours. My life isn't a chit to be used to bludgeon people to silence on either side ... I have my own opinions about what we should do about Iraq, but since I'm not around to expound on them I'd prefer others not try and use me as some kind of moral capital to support a position I probably didn't support.
On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was.”
Maj. Andrew Olmsted did die leading men in battle. He served proudly and sacrificed his life doing a job he loved.
William Sessions, former FBI director and a veteran of the Korean War once said of our service men and women:
“They went not for conquest and not for gain, but only to protect the anguished and the innocent. They suffered greatly and by their heroism in a thousand forgotten battles they added a luster to the codes we hold most dear: duty, honor, country, fidelity, bravery, integrity.”
Over the years, I’ve come to think of USCG LCDR Kelly Strong’s poem entitled “Freedom isn’t Free” as a fitting a Memorial Day tribute:
I watched the flag pass by one day. It fluttered in the breeze. A young Marine saluted it, and then he stood at ease. I looked at him in uniform So young, so tall, so proud, He'd stand out in any crowd. I thought how many men like him Had fallen through the years. How many died on foreign soil? How many mothers' tears? How many pilots' planes shot down? How many died at sea? How many foxholes were soldiers' graves? No, freedom isn't free.
I heard the sound of TAPS one night, When everything was still I listened to the bugler play And felt a sudden chill. I wondered just how many times That TAPS had meant "Amen," When a flag had draped a coffin Of a brother or a friend. I thought of all the children, Of the mothers and the wives, Of fathers, sons and husbands With interrupted lives. I thought about a graveyard At the bottom of the sea Of unmarked graves in Arlington. No, freedom isn't free.
Strong’s words are very true - freedom is not free, it is purchased by the blood of a nation’s fallen sons and daughters. While this is a holiday for fun and family please do all of those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country the honor of taking a moment out of your holiday weekend to remember them. Explain to your children why this holiday is so important - while you remember the children of the fallen who know all too well its meaning.
Graves of my mother and father, both veterans, at the National Cemetary at Ft. Smith, AR.
"Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them" — Franklin D Roosevelt
I spend the day damning my father, who, in John Kerry like fashion, besmirches the honor and value of those with whom he served by dismissing, as idiotic folly, the mission their commanders set them upon. I praise all those who helped to keep my father alive during his three combat tours in Korea and Viet Nam. And I praise all those who by their actions and resolutions, keep alive the dreams and freedoms of all fathers, and mothers, and sisters and brothers.
More than any other, Major Olmstead’s death does, and will always leave me weeping. As a regular reader of his web-logs, I miss his quiet humor and biting insight. A better representative of my state, our country, and my honor, will not found.