Skip to comments.Memorial Day: As We Remember the Many, Remember Too the Individuals
Posted on 05/27/2013 3:22:54 PM PDT by jfd1776
Each Memorial Day, Americans proudly, and solemnly, display our flags only at the half-staff position for the morning, not to return them to the full-staff position until noon. This we do in memory of the million-some casualties whom our nation has lost in battle since the Founding era.
We hold parades in their honor; we hoist a flag and raise a toast at city parks and private barbecues. We may wear red, white and blue clothing, or flag lapel pins, or decorate our homes with bunting. But for all this show of support, who are we really honoring? Do we know?
On July 4, we celebrate the Founding Fathers, a generation of giants who won us our independence and designed the greatest system of government ever attempted. We know their names, from school and books and popular culture. Our street signs bear their names, as do our school buildings and even our towns.
On November 11, we honor every member of the military, living and dead, those who were injured or died in battle, and those who lived good long lives. Most of us have relatives and friends who served, either in wartime or peacetime.
Most of us can put a face to this celebration a parent, a cousin, an uncle or aunt or grandpa. We may remember them in their uniforms, from years ago when they came back home for brief visits when on leave. We may remember the cards they sent from exotic locales, or we may (hopefully) remember moments in our childhoods, having sent cards to them regularly sending our loved ones letters and care packages throughout their deployments, mailing to naval bases, to air force bases, to army bases.
Memorial Day is Different.
Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, was specifically declared to remember those veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who gave their lives in battle in order that this nation might grow and prosper in freedom.
Because this nation has never viewed human life as meaningless as many other countries do, we have always tried to follow the great words of General Patton, who so famously stated that you dont win wars by dying for your country; you win them by getting the other guy to die for his (yes, thats paraphrased; it might have been stated more colorfully than that). Our nation doesnt throw millions into a front; we have always tried to find ways to win wars that minimize our casualties, often turning to technology such as better guns, better ships, better tanks and planes, even nuclear weapons.
We have aimed for a world in which fear of our power would decrease the need to go to war at all, and for much of our history this technique has succeeded but even so we have still had many wars. You cant be the biggest boy on the block in a rough neighborhood and not be challenged on occasion; the armed forces of the United States have therefore fought valiantly in many wars, and despite the best efforts of their commanding officers and strategists, many have made that ultimate sacrifice on the field of battle.
But this is a nation of 300 million, and while many of us know veterans, many of us are fortunate enough to have no ancestors who lost their lives in battle. My grandfather served in both WWI and WWII and survived them both; my great uncle commanded a naval vessel in WWII; my cousins served in Vietnam without a scratch. Im proud of them all, and I think of them on Veterans Day; but I am lucky to have no one in my personal line for whom to shed tears on this particular day.
So for those like me, those who might have no human face in their line to be honored on this solemn holiday, I offer a few proposed memories of those whom I think of each year.
Lt. Col. John Laurens
For one year of our War of Independence, South Carolinas Henry Laurens served as President of the Continental Congress. His son John Laurens joined the Glorious Cause at the beginning, and soon rose to become a member of General Washingtons family one of the several aides-de-camp who helped administer the coordinated effort from Washingtons central command.
Laurens quickly became a close friend of fellow aides Colonel Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette, men who did not serve just for glory or revenge against the tyrannical king of England, but who served for the cause of human freedom.
Like his friends, John Laurens was an abolitionist finding it morally inconsistent to support liberty for whites while continuing the enslavement of blacks. He proposed the idea of raising companies of former slaves, promising freedom in exchange for service in the war, and won the endorsement of the Continental Congress for such a program. The Congress authorized him to raise a regiment of 3000 freed slaves in 1779.
But it was not to be. While still arguing against the local objections of his fellow South Carolinians who were to continue to object to any loosening of those chains until a Civil War put an end to it 80 years later Laurens continued to serve under General Greene and others. Between battles, he continued to advocate for manumission, abolition, his service swap idea, anything that might end the wicked practice.
Laurens served at Yorktown in 1781, commanding a battalion under Colonel Hamilton, and was appointed the primary spokesman for negotiating British General Cornwallis surrender.
But Yorktown didnt end the war; it only served as the last huge battle. There were still more skirmishes, here and there, during the two long years between the autumns of 1781 and 1783 during which a complex peace was negotiated.
John Laurens was cut down in battle the Battle of the Combahee River on August 27, 1782, just weeks before the British withdrew from Charleston.
General Greene, in announcing his death, said The army has lost a brave officer, and the public, a worthy citizen.
General Washington, whom the young patriot had long served as an aide, wrote In a word, he had not a fault that I ever could discover, unless intrepidity bordering upon rashness could come under that denomination; and to this he was excited by the purest motives.
Captain Richard Somers
In Americas first foreign war after gaining our Independence, we fought the muslim pirates of the Barbary Coast in the First and Second Barbary Wars.
Different nations have different ideas about how far out from their shores should be considered their own sovereign territory seventeen miles, a hundred, perhaps even two hundred, depending on the threat of potential attackers and the values of mineral and fishing rights.
But theres no way to look at it that justifies the Barbary pirates operation in the 18th and 19th centuries: they viewed the Mediterranean Sea as their private lake, and waylaid any vessel that passed through the Straits of Gibraltar, unless it flew the flag of a government that paid enough tribute and backed it up with enough of a military threat.
After losing too many merchant ships to kidnappings and theft, the United States finally declared that enough was enough, and the rallying cry arose across the states: Millions for defense; not one penny for tribute!
President Thomas Jefferson gained the support of Congress to go to war with the villainous naval power of Tripoli, and we raised a navy, fighting and winning one war, then doing it again a few years later when it didnt take (then as now, a treaty signed by a practitioner of taquiyya is of little value once that practitioner loses interest in honoring his agreements).
At the Second Battle of Tripoli, Captain Richard Somers loaded up a ship with explosives, the USS Intrepid, planning to sail into Tripoli Harbor the home base of the pirates and blow up the Corsair fleet, ships and piers alike, in a daring raid, much like Stephen Decaturs successful landing a few months before.
But this time, Somers men were spotted, despite careful timing, and sailing with the least visibility, and the enemy fired on them on September 4, 1804. Being so heavily loaded with explosives, the Intrepid was a goner as soon as it was hit, and it quickly sunk, taking a valiant crew of thirteen volunteers along with the wreckage.
Captain Somers and his crew had known what they were in for; sailing into an enemy harbor is a dangerous mission. This was a loss of honorable men of courage, a critical effort to protect both the reputation of the United States and the security of American commerce. Along with the captain, we lost Midshipman Joseph Israel, Commodore Decaturs son James, Lieutenant Henry Wadsworth, and nine more sailors and officers, all amazingly brave, having been willing to sail into the eye of the storm with a veritable fireworks warehouse on board.
Even though we tragically lost this part of the Second Battle of Tripoli, we won the war, never forgetting those stalwart patriots we lost on the shores of Tripoli.
The bodies washed ashore the next day, and the ghouls of Tripoli paraded the corpses through the streets, as they still do in Somalia, Egypt, and Libya, even today. Desecrating the remains of heroes is one of the joys relished by such a foe. The remains were never repatriated; their graves remain at Tripoli, a reminder to the opponents of how far Americans will go, and what risks we will run, to protect American rights and a reminder to our own servicemen of the risks involved in their service, that none may shoulder such risk unprepared.
Wars are rarely an uninterrupted progression of victorious battles. Soldiers and sailors dont know when they set forth whether theyre marching into a victory or a loss, whether they themselves will survive the day or not. They are courageous for wearing the uniform and taking the risk, and we owe them all our everlasting thanks for making the attempt.
We have fought many wars since those first wars of political and commercial independence. In every one, we have seen hundreds of thousands of brave Americans fight proudly for the Flag, for the Constitution, for our Nation, without allowing the incoming fire of musket, cannon, or mortar to drive them from their posts.
On this day, we thank them all, but most especially those who gave their very lives, and their heirs and friends and relatives who feel the loss most deeply. Whether in Iraq or Afghanistan today, or in Vietnam or Korea a generation earlier, or in the Pacific or Atlantic theaters in the World Wars of generations before that, it has always taken great bravery to wear the target of an American serviceman, and we owe every measure of our liberty to their steadfast service.
May those lost in battle Rest in Peace, and may the good Lord bless their heirs and comrades as we honor their memory, this and every Memorial Day.
Copyright 2013 John F. Di Leo
John F. Di Leo is a Chicago-based Customs broker and international trade compliance lecturer. As he never wore an active duty uniform himself, he has the utmost gratitude for the millions who have. In both war and peace, our American armed forces are among the greatest assets this great nation has; may our people always respect and appreciate them.
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The individuals......my hubby, my son, my dad, my uncle, my cousin, lots of friends.
God blees all our military heroes!
Thank you very much.
Odd that the author didn’t give a shout-out to Lt. Presley O’Bannon, the hero of Derna.
This is beautiful. Thanks
Maybe he didn’t know about him?
His name should’ve come up during his research of the subject.
My father, a patriot of the old school and a 3 war Marine.
South Pacific, Korea and Nam (technically as an advisor to the S. Viet army, 1963-64, but the Cong were shooting at them nonetheless) RET 1965. Died 2003.
Remembering my son’s brother in law. Shane’s only son was born the day Shane died; Shane Kiellion, Jr. was born 30 minutes before his father died.
Marine Lance Corporal Shane E Kielion, 23, of La Vista NE was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton CA. He was killed 11/15/2004 as a result of enemy action in Fallujah Iraq.
Goodman Alexander Wilson, ,Jr., 5th Marine Div WWII
Robert Atlas Wilson Co.A 44th Armored Inf.6th Div WWII
Roy Clark Wilson 8th Armored Div. WWII
Joe Reece Wilson 7th Inf.Div. WWII
Bailey Evans Wilson US Navy WWII
Lavan Wilson Korea and Vietnam
I remember these men from my youth, growing up in the 70's. They were not heroes. They did not complain. They did not brag. They did their duty. They loved their country. They never asked for special treatment.
They taught me to be a man.
They were both killed as our entire company looked on.
Well that pretty much breaks the heart...:(
Remembering my Dad who died while serving and protecting our country.
I was four years old,.... my brother three,... my sister seven,... my older brother ten.
We grew up without a Father....
.....A kid will ALWAYS remember ‘the price’ for our freedoms when they loose a parent for their country and its people...Always.....