Posted by Wordsmith on 28 May, 2010 at 10:38 pm. 31 comments already!

*Note*-This post to remain stickied at the top for the duration of the Memorial Day Weekend;
for more recent posts, check below it.

The following FA video is dedicated to Major Chris Galloway and his family:

FA authors offer their thoughts and reflections upon what this “holiday” weekend means to each of them…

Many of my prior Memorial Day posts have centered on the fact that the purpose of the day has been lost on many Americans nowadays. It’s a national day of mourning and remembrance for those who gave all for their country. But since the day changed from being held every May 30th, to the last Monday in May to ensure a 3 day weekend it’s become a “holiday.”

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

This quote is one of the best I have found:

“If it is considered a holiday, why is it so? I consider it to be a national day of mourning. This is how we observe this day in our home. Because of what that day represents the rest of the days of the year are our holidays.”
-F L Lloyd West Chester, Pa USA – February 26, 2000

And this Memorial Day will be especially difficult for the Flopping Aces family seeing as how this will be the first one since Chris has passed away. Wordsmith does an excellent job honoring this great man below (and in his video above), using Chris’s own words, written here on these pages.

Please, enjoy your long weekend but take some time out of it and remember the sacrifices made by our nations heroes, and their families. For without them there would be no United States of America.

We miss you Chris….

It’s not just picnics or a day at the beach!

Memorial Day started as what was called “Decoration Day” to remember the 600,000 Americans who died during the Civil War. People would decorate the graves of the dead and honor their memory. [history of the holiday here.]

Later on, it became an unofficial start to summer with many people focusing not on honoring war dead, but on having a holiday with their families. But the traditions of the original holiday live on
.

David Matthews of Pack 308 places a flag on a grave at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery May 26, 2007 in Louisville, Kentucky. Boy Scouts from the Seneca District and the Lincoln Heritage Council, which represents the Louisville area, participated in the flag placing. This was the 25th year that scouts have been placing flags on the graves at the cemetery.
My hope is that while families are out enjoying the holiday they will also reflect for a time on the sacrifice by our fallen soldiers that makes their lives of relative ease and prosperity possible. Many words have been written and spoken to express the debt we owe these men and women. None better than Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. Offered below is a reading of Lincoln’s short, moving speech by actor Sam Waterston. Also included is the Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful provided by the U.S. Air Force Band.

A more contemporary and equally moving reminder of what this holiday means comes from President Reagan’s tribute on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the D Day invasion of France in World War II. The President spoke at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. Reagan tells the story of Private Robert Zanatta, of the 37th Engineer Combat Battalion. Private Zanatta was part of the first assault wave that hit the beach that morning 65 years ago. The story is based on a letter sent to the President by Zanatta’s daughter Lisa. Cue the video to the 6:32 mark for the emotional conclusion:

PRESIDENT REAGAN: Lisa Zanatta Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: “I’m going there, Dad, and I’ll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I’ll see the graves, and I’ll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I’ll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I’ll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And, Dad, I’ll always be proud.”

Taking our remembrance into the 21st Century, we have the Pulitzer Prize winning series “Final Salute” which ran in the Rocky Mountain News in 2005. Reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler spent a year with the Marines stationed at Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base who have found themselves called upon to notify families of the deaths of their sons in Iraq. It’s a sad but moving tribute to our fallen soldiers and a reminder of the toll their deaths take on their families.

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Passengers aboard the commercial flight bringing home the body of 2nd Lt. Jim Cathey watch as his casket is unloaded by a Marine honor guard at Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

A slideshow of the “Final Salute” photographs is available here.

From “Fallen Heroes” a photo essay by Daniel J. Wood. Location: Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola Florida.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.”

Every year, as Memorial Day Weekend begins to roll around, I feel melancholy and sad. Much of that has to do with a general sense that so many of my fellow citizens don’t truly appreciate the meaning behind the 3-4 day weekend of family barbecues and special discount sales at the mall. All our peace and prosperity has been made possible because of the men and women who have served and sacrificed since the beginning of our nation’s founding.

We, as a nation, are blessed…having been spared much of the suffering and dysfunction that plagues so many of our fellow human beings in other parts of the world.

Chris was one of our nation’s heroes; and one whom we as a nation lost last year, while he served in uniform. And while we lost in him a friend and fellow citizen, his family lost a son. A brother. A husband. A father.

Chris believed in what we were doing over in Iraq. The following is an excerpt from his very first post here, at FA (posted September of 2007):

What are we doing here? We are giving people the opportunity to fight for their freedom. Freedom is not a concept that is given, it is earned. It is the costliest of human aspirations and the one thing most easily squandered. I take the dhimmitude that infects the West today as my “Exhibit A”. Those who have no concept of the cost of freedom are willing to give it away all in the name of a false “peace”. But what is Peace without Freedom?

Peace without Freedom is Slavery. I will never be a slave. If I lose my life in this land, I will have died a Free Man. If those who outlive me surrender in the name of “Peace” because they are too terrified and selfish to sacrifice for the cost of Freedom, they too will die. However, they will die as slaves, or dhimmi, which is the same thing.

~~~

the-hug

Iraq was a country where the soldiers were used to terrorize the population. Her soldiers were employed by Saddam to rape, pillage, and burn in order to maintain his absolute rule. In the end, a few Coalition Divisions and air support wiped them out. The Iraqis were not a professional army. They were Saddam’s goons.

But that is different now. Now there are dedicated schools for Iraqi Soldiers. A growing Non-Commissioned Officer corps exists. The Iraqi Soldiers of today is better educated, better lead, and better supported than he ever was. Would they be on par with the Western Coalition today? No, but few are and we train heard just to keep that proficiency ourselves. That said, the Iraqi Army is probably the best armed force in the Arab/Persian world. If you cannot look at this picture and be touched by the emotional comfort the Soldier is providing the child, then I doubt anything I have to say will matter as your heart is full of hatred for the USA, our President, our Armed Forces, and the good Iraqi People.

So how does this affect yours truly? I helped equip this Soldier you see hugging the child. Everything he has on him and even that generator behind him are things I helped provide. That is my contribution to the war now. I help to build a professional Iraqi Army. My years as an Armor Officer are over. I have moved to Acquisitions. My vengeance to the terrorists no longer comes from the muzzles of my tanks, but from the ability of the Iraqis to hunt and kill the barbarian terrorist thugs themselves.

~~~

So I leave you with this one photograph.

An Iraqi girl holds a Beanie Baby and a handbill given to her by Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Public Order Brigade during Operation Thunder Goodwill Aug. 17. Photo by U.S. Army Spc. David Kobi, 55th Signal Company

To those who serve and support our efforts and are part of the war to crush the rising tide of terrorism and hijacked Islam, you will look at this picture, and like me, promise those little eyes that we WILL NOT FAIL. I looked at this picture the most today writing this letter. I kept asking myself if I have done everything I can to give her the opportunity to work for freedom and live in true peace. I hope I have. I know others have given everything in that cause. 3,000 Americans have given their lives so little children like this girl will not live under tyranny. Many thousands more have given years of their lives to fight the rising tide of tyrants in the world.

To those people, I give my sincerest thanks and love, as everyone who reads this should also. They are the ones who make life worth living. It does not matter who these supporters of Freedom are or what they can provide to the effort. The fact that they provide is enough.

Read the entire post.

Chris left this life too soon; but he left it with his mark upon the world. He took part in history, shaping it for future generations. The world his children will grow up in, will be a world absent of Saddam and his murderous sons. And it will be a world in which future generations of Iraqi children will have a chance for a brighter future than the one the status quo of Saddam’s Iraq would have afforded them.

Chris, along with thousands of others, had a hand in that. We celebrate the life he lived, in service to others, even as we mourn his passing.

And this post is for each and every American soldier that we have lost in every year, and in every generation. For without them, we are nothing. And without recognizing that they have given their lives in service to all of us, then we are nothing.

Please take none of it for granted.

I’ve been trying and trying to write a Memorial Day piece to go along with my fellow Floppin’ Aces, but to no avail. There’s just too much to say, and none of it fits in a soundbite or even a few paras for me. This is my fifth, final, and surrendered attempt.

A neighbor of mine at work is a singer/songwriter. She’s got amazing talent, and I’m proud to know her (even if our politics probably are polar). Rachel Roberts wrote a song that helped me get through some tough times this year, and it sticks out for this occasion as well. The song is called, “Rescue You,” but the word ‘rescue’ is really synonymous with the idea of ‘enduring all kinds of hardship for you.’

[Ya might wanna let it play while you read this.]

I’m sure she didn’t write it as a Memorial Day ode to those who have served. However, when I think of people like my grandfather, my uncle, my godfather, and so many friends who have served…when I think of them individually I cannot help but see a common trait among those who I’ve known. I think of people like Sgt Eddie Jeffers,
and, of course, of Major Chris Galloway, and I think Rachel’s song is about any one of those people.

When in combat, people don’t fight and die for a flag or a Republic, but for each other-for the people next to them on the line, and for the people they believe they are protecting from bad guys. I hear her song-and so many others, and I picture Eddie going through Hell for his dad and all of us. I picture Chris traveling to the farthest, ass-end spot on the planet to give Shannon and the kids the safest lives possible. It’s an even easier image to picture with my relatives. They all endured untold hardships for you, for me, for the guy next to ’em on the line, but most of all for others.

It’s not just those in the military either. I know too many cops, deputies, and firefighters who literally walk through flames to rescue others. That day in September…9yrs ago…hundreds of them climbed thousands of stairs w hundreds of pounds of gear so they could rescue you. Whether you were there that day or not, they did it as if you were.

Now, I could rant on about inalienable rights, about people who expect things to be done for them and/or handed to them. I want so badly to rave about how there are people who work hard, who pioneer, who take risks so as to make their lives and the lives of others better, but nothing compares to the memory of firefighters lining up and waiting for their chance to hit the stairs in the World Trade Center. All that raving is so puny compared to watching Chris get on that plane to go as far as possible from his family for them, for me, and for you.

For all the bitching I want to do about people who are bitching that healthcare, retirement, employment, education, cars, and cell phones are all rights…that’s not gonna change the fact that there are other people out there who have died to protect us and our real, genuine rights. There are people out there right now, on frozen mountain tops, in deserts, alone in cockpits, far out at sea, or six feet under, and they are there because they wanted to endure all kinds of hardships for you and me. If needed, they’d be the first in line to rescue us, and the very least we can do this weekend is remember them…maybe raise a glass to them, and thank them as best we can.

To all those who have served, to their families, and their friends:
THANK YOU

Memorial day is a day set aside to remember those who gave the fullest measure of courage to protect our precious freedoms we enjoy every day. As I reflect on the gifts I have been granted by their sacrifice this weekend, I kept asking how can we ever properly thank these fallen heroes? Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address answers that question –

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.

We all can honor them by living boldly and striving to build upon the freedoms that they paid for with their lives. The torch has been passed to us, let us not break the faith:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

As always, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of Maj. Chris Galloway. Rest in Peace, Chris.

I am always left speechless when it comes to honoring those that have given the ultimate gift of life to serve our nation and secure our freedoms. A simple “thank you” to the families – often those who’s sacrifices are overlooked on this day – seems empty. Words simply fail to convey.

Ever on our minds is our own ChrisG, and our hopes and prayers that Shannon and family will continue their endeavors to provide aid to those who return with PTSD… a potentially fatal wound that too often escapes our nations’ eyes.

So, on this Memorial Day, I shall contribute with song, photos and poetry… below, a circa 2007 YouTube tribute by Barry Shea, with moving still photos honoring first the soldiers, and their families, set to “Danny Boy”. Agonizing to think that the death count at the end has only gone up. Following that, a poem published by Iowa journalist, Dustin C. Oliver, on Memorial Day 2007.

In Arlington, a flag is placed
on every soldier’s grave.
In cemeteries nationwide,
the stars and stripes are displayed.

In battlefields around the world,
from Antietam, to Mosul, the Somme,
in places hot and steamy,
and those covered in ice,

The blood-stained earth still echoes
the final anguished cries
of men and women who gave
the ultimate sacrifice.

With selfless honor,
they bravely paid
freedom’s deadly, bloody price.

Thousands of souls have earned
their nation’s thanks throughout the years.
While back at home,
their families wept
a thousand bitter tears.

And now, as spring edges into summer,
we come together across the land
to honor that brave number
as we have for many years.

The bugles sound, the flags all fly,
the old soldiers lift a glass,
to the buddies they loved,
that are never coming back.

Mothers cry as they remember
the son who went to war.
Children try to picture a father
dead and buried when they were born.

All across the nation,
their comrades reminisce.
And in churches and town halls,
names are read from a list.

Now soldiers, be at ease.
Your compatriots have the watch.
And they’ll serve and die until
that final day of peace.

Rest in peace, our heroes in all generations. When the strains of Taps have long faded away, and the echoes of the 21 gun salutes transition to spring birdsong, my tears still flow. I remain humbled by what you have given on my behalf. The government may set aside just one day a year to honor those that fell, but you live in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers eternally. May we be worthy of your sacrifice, and “have that watch” dutifully.

Do you see one of America’s finest in need? PTSD/crisis hotlines below:

Military Pathways
Purple Heart Services – www.PTSDHotline.com – (800) 293-1438
VA Hotline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
VA Local Programs locator site – www2.va.gov/directory/guide/ptsd_flsh.asp
Wounded Warrior crisis hotline – 800-273-8255

The crosses were put out on Wednesday. The flags were added on Friday.

Throughout the downtown section of our little south Georgia community, bright white crosses bearing jet black names and their corresponding theatres of battle have, once again, been carefully and reverently pressed into the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street.

Up North Main and down South Main, the silent reminders speak of young men, hardly more than boys really; in many cases teenagers marching off into battles halfway round the world not knowing if they would ever again see the red Georgia clay of the county they called home.

Hundreds of crosses covering battlefield engagements dating from WWI through Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Every year these silent sentinels call out and say “Remember” and remind us to pause and say “Thank You” to those whose names are written there but whose stories, in most cases, are known but to those who knew them personally.

John R. McKinney’s name is on one of the crosses. He was a WWII veteran. He died in 1997.

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension

U.S. President Harry S. Truman joining hands with four servicemen he has just decorated with the Medal of Honor: (from left to right) Sgt. John R. McKinney; First Lt. Daniel W. Lee; the President; Lt. Donald A. Gary (engineering officer of the U.S.S. FRANKLIN); and Commander Joseph T. O’Callahan (the first chaplain in the armed forces to receive the Medal of Honor).

McKinney’s valor in the Phillipines earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. His story is told detail by Forrest Bryant Johnson in his book Phantom Warrior: The Heroic True Story of Pvt. John McKinney’s One-Man Stand Against the Japanese in World War II.

His Medal of Honor Commendation sums up what Private McKinney did that day:

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The President of the United States
in the name of The Congress
takes pleasure in presenting the
Medal of Honor
to

McKlNNEY, JOHN R.

Rank and Organization: Sergeant (then Private), U.S. Army, Company A, 123d Infantry, 33d Infantry Division. Place and Date Tayabas Province, Luzon, Philippine Islands, 11 May 1945. Entered Service at: Woodcliff, Ga. Birth: Woodcliff, Ga. G.O. No.: 14, 4 February 1946.

Citation:
He fought with extreme gallantry to defend the outpost which had been established near Dingalan Bay. Just before daybreak approximately 100 Japanese stealthily attacked the perimeter defense, concentrating on a light machinegun position manned by 3 Americans. Having completed a long tour of duty at this gun, Pvt. McKinney was resting a few paces away when an enemy soldier dealt him a glancing blow on the head with a saber. Although dazed by the stroke, he seized his rifle, bludgeoned his attacker, and then shot another assailant who was charging him. Meanwhile, 1 of his comrades at the machinegun had been wounded and his other companion withdrew carrying the injured man to safety. Alone, Pvt. McKinney was confronted by 10 infantrymen who had captured the machinegun with the evident intent of reversing it to fire into the perimeter. Leaping into the emplacement, he shot 7 of them at pointblank range and killed 3 more with his rifle butt. In the melee the machinegun was rendered inoperative, leaving him only his rifle with which to meet the advancing Japanese, who hurled grenades and directed knee mortar shells into the perimeter. He warily changed position, secured more ammunition, and reloading repeatedly, cut down waves of the fanatical enemy with devastating fire or clubbed them to death in hand-to-hand combat. When assistance arrived, he had thwarted the assault and was in complete control of the area. Thirty-eight dead Japanese around the machinegun and 2 more at the side of a mortar 45 yards distant was the amazing toll he had exacted single-handedly. By his indomitable spirit, extraordinary fighting ability, and unwavering courage in the face of tremendous odds, Pvt. McKinley saved his company from possible annihilation and set an example of unsurpassed intrepidity.

To you Sgt McKinney, to our friend ChrisG, and to all of those whose names and stories we do not know, we say “Thank you”.

We will always remember.

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Other Memorial Day posts to check out:
BLACKFIVE
Bookworm Room
Kim Priestap
Michelle Malkin
Mudville Gazette
NoisyRoom.net

Charities of note:
Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund
Soldiers’ Angels
Wounded Warrior Project

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