Memorial Day

Last month my family and I observed a wreath laying/dedication at the Pacific WWII memorial in Washington D.C. We were unsuspecting tourists )

A group of WWII veterans from Ohio had gathered together and made the trip to D.C. to pay tribute to all those they had served with and to remember those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice and to acknowledge the daily passing (a rate of 1200 a day-by many accounts)of their fellow WWII Veterans.

Some walked independently, some pushed in wheel chairs, most had on Honor Flight tee-shirts near all had their military caps-noting their branch of service….This procession was profoundly moving. The lone bag pipe player in Celtic garb played “Amazing Grace” followed by the Veterans. I can say, I had tears in my eyes and my heart in my throat as I watched. It was very noble and sacred.

I thought of all the Veterans and their families and of the recent passing of my own father in law, who had served in the Navy and in the Pacific fleet during WWII and of the young men and women who are currently serving and of those who have been killed giving their lives to protect and defend– real people who gave so much of themselves for all that makes our country great.


2 Responses to “Memorial Day”

  1. olotliny Says:

    The Day America Cried
    DATE: 5/24/2007 8:10:00 PM
    By John A. Henning

    It seemed like any other spring day here in northwestern Vermont; thankfully sunny, yet the air still crisp in the shadows. Trees were flowering, grass was growing, and mulch was being strewn across flower beds like a secure blanket of protection. Watching out my kitchen window as I wistfully read through chat room banter on, I noticed a new subject topic: ‘Doug Zembiec.’ My heart froze. Just nine days before the subject line read: ‘Travis Manion.’ Both attended the Naval Academy. Both were members of the Academy’s varsity wrestling team. Both chose commissions in the Marines upon graduation and became Marine Infantry Officers. Both were now being reported as killed in action in Iraq. My mouth is dry and my heart is now beating very fast.

    Having watched both of these young men compete, about eight years apart, they had much in common. Both were 177-184 pound athletes tougher than nails with ‘never quit’ attitudes. Zembiec earned All-American honors during his senior year in 1995.
    Too close to home, I thought.

    I began to wonder why these two young Marines were having such a profound effect on me. Why was I crying? I had never personally met either one. Why was my spirit crushed?

    My first visit to Annapolis was in the spring of 1963. We went to a Navy lacrosse game, learned about the statue of Temcuseh, and visited the Academy’s Chapel. There was tradition everywhere. It was hard to imagine all 4,500 midshipmen living and eating in one building, Bancroft Hall, but it was true. My fascination with the United States Naval Academy continued through the years. To gain acceptance into the Academy one needed to meet three criteria: qualify academically, qualify physically and secure a Congressional appointment. Only the very best of the best are admitted. To whom much is given, much is expected.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Flash back to March 2004….The Palestra on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The EIWA wrestling championships are about to begin. Wrestlers from every school are bouncing around trying to loosen up. The National Anthem is being sung. Wrestlers continue to bounce nervously, except those from West Point and Annapolis. Those 20 young men are at rapt attention, facing the flag. They stand motionless until the conclusion. These guys are different. They are competitors in the event but answer to a set of values and responsibilities that set them apart. They are carefully chosen.

    Our nation invests a tremendous amount developing these young men into officers capable of leading others in the defense of our country. We place our trust in a system that builds character by instilling humility, leadership, loyalty and courage. We even take it for granted. That is, until one of them you know gets killed. We will never see or hear from them ever again.

    America should mourn the loss of men like Travis Manion and Doug Zembiec. Accounts of their heroism both from family and those they were leading are truly moving. Doug Zembiec wrote a mother of one of his Marines killed in action and told her he shed tears, in front of his men, that fell to the ground. He was unashamed of it. The Unashamed Warrior!

    So why was I crying and why was my spirit crushed?
    Marines live by a code. Marines are loyal. Marines have honor. When men like these die in the line of duty defending us, it hurts. We should hurt and we should remember. We should cry and not be ashamed. The pride one feels for those who stand their post is humbling. The litmus test of manhood is a shared emotion. The sense of loss is overwhelming. The commonality of being a citizen of the United States gives us the strength to cry today and keep the faith for tomorrow. We are free because men like Doug Zembiec and Travis Manion made the ultimate sacrifice. It’s always been that way … unfortunately. Semper Fi<!–

  2. olotliny Says:

    A year ago, I wrote this letter to express my sincerest gratitude towards the Patriot Guard and their past and present service to our country and fellow citizens-those who in serving, gave their lives to protect and defend and also for me-a citizen trying to grasp the enormity of loss/cost for their families and our country…

    Dear Patriot Guard,

    I just want to extend my sincerest heart felt thanks to the Patriot Guard for being there today in Sayville for Matthew Baylis’s family.
    My son is active duty Navy and I’ve already attended 2 other funerals:((( one for Michael Murphy a beloved Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan and one for my son’s personal friend Thomas Wilwerth killed in Iraq. I wasn’t planning on going today, but when I read that wacko group from mid west-sent out fliers they were going to boy cot and protest— well that outraged me and I had to go to be there for the family.)

    I put out an email to you and you immediately responded. That impressed me. People are awake. People are on the ball. -and- People care, and care deeply. The day and all of it is not about me–I’m just sharing with you how I felt..I felt crushed and empty standing there in front of the church and then the Patriot Guard very orderly begins to pull in and park their motorcycles in front of the church–most of the Veterans had big flags and near 97% had some sort of apparel that denoted service, rank, job… well, that crushed spirit disappeared and I felt _whole_ and _united _and _proud_ and _grateful_ and _honored_ to be there with them and all the Veterans as a citizen of the greatest country on the earth!—Great because of people like you . Great because of Matthew and all who have fallen in service to protect and defend. Great because my precious son, and all the other sons and daughters out there on active duty. Great because of all the Veterans who have served and secured our countries freedom.

    THANK YOU! 🙂
    Most sincerely,
    Proud Navy Mom

    Comment by olotliny — June 10, 2007 @ 10:52 am

    Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You speech
    Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy – January 20th 1961

    Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You speech

    Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon, President Truman, reverend clergy, fellow citizens, we observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

    The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

    We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

    Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

    This much we pledge – and more.

    To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided, there is little we can do – for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

    To those new States whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom – and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

    To those peoples in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required – not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

    To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge – to convert our good words into good deeds – in a new alliance for progress – to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty. But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers. Let all our neighbours know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas. And let every other power know that this Hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

    To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support – to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective – to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak – and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

    Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request: that both sides begin anew the quest for peace, before the dark powers of destruction unleashed by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.

    We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

    But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course – both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind’s final war.

    So let us begin anew – remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

    Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belabouring those problems which divide us.

    Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms – and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

    Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

    Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah – to “undo the heavy burdens -. and to let the oppressed go free.”

    And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavour, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

    All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

    In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

    Now the trumpet summons us again – not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation” – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

    Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

    In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shank from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavour will light our country and all who serve it — and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

    My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.

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