Memorial Day


30 May 2011 03:06 pm

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Final resting place of Brigadier General William O. Darby, killed in action in World War ll.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” G.K. Chesterton

It makes me cringe when people say “Happy Memorial Day,” because they are lumping this day of observance of those who have died for our freedom in with any other holiday of which they have a day off.

Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have fallen in service to our country.

It is so tiring to have to continually repeat this bit of fact to those who should know. The facebook generation is too busy celebrating themselves and anything and everything that distracts themselves from the reality of the world.

A few years back my husband was teaching algebra at a “Christian High School” and a conversation somehow started in which the students began to express themselves about what they would do if our country were invaded by an enemy. Would they be alarmed and want to defend themselves? Only three students out of a class of fifteen would be willing to take up arms and defend our country, our state, their city, their neighborhood, their home.

Not long after that conversation, my husband, a graduate of the United States Military Academy, a retired full Colonel in the U.S. Army who served thirty years and earned three Masters Degrees in Business Administration, Mathematical Modeling and Teaching, was counseled to please refrain from speaking to the students about anything having to do with the military because certain parents who were on the Board of the school did not want their children to serve in the military and were afraid that my husband’s accounts of his service in the military and stories of his days at West Point and his mathematical tie-ins to the history of our country were becoming too compelling to their children.

Although my husband really enjoyed teaching his students, he began to sum up the countless demands made on him that year. There was the interference of parents who demanded that their children be given grades they didn’t deserve. There was the proscription against giving too much homework to the students because their extra-curricular activities were so much more important. And of course, my husbands’ former career seemed suspect.

In a climate like that, he resigned. One would think that military service would be honored in a Christian School but it wasn’t. Not really. This Christian School was not a Quaker School. It was a traditional Christian School. Many Christian parents for some reason seemed to believe that raising their children to be ministers or missionaries was pleasing to God but sending them to serve their country was not. Thank goodness that is not what American Christians believed in Revolutionary Days, or the Days of the Civil War or even the Days of World War ll.

But in the seventies the American people were throwing away tradition and the time-honored custom of observing Memorial Day on May 30th was lost. In the aftermath of the Vietnam War for many years the military was not welcomed into the American community. Former or retired members of the military are still not accepted in some institutions as they should be.

“Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.” — VFW 2002 Memorial Day address

30 May 2010 10:35 pm

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My Uncle Max was a tailgunner in the Pacific in World War ll. He got a Dear John letter during the war and wrote to my Dad asking him to be kind to his ex-wife. That was the kind of man he was.

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My Father-in-law was a pilot in World War ll.

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My Uncle Ed was in the Battle of the Bulge and the Ardennes in World War Two.

All three men came home safely from the war, and raised families. None of them spoke of the war until they were much older.

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Butch on the right flexing his muscles with my cousin, Gary in happier days.

My cousin, Jeanne’s boyfriend, Roger Dale Cecil (Butch) was a marine killed in Vietnam. I still remember the anguish of those days when letters he had written were delivered after we had attended his funeral.

None of these men will be with us tomorrow as we celebrate the many freedoms we enjoy on Memorial Day.

Neither will the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines killed in the War on Terror, the Gulf War, the Korean War and other conflicts.

Here is a list of just a few soldiers who laid down their lives in recent years.

Spc. Erich Smallwood

Maj. Andrew Olmsted

Army Spc. Dustin Fisher

Sgt. Buddy James Hughie

Sgt. Michael James Stokely

President Bush spoke these stirring words about our fallen heroes on May 27th, 2007 and we should cherish them in these worrisome times as we will not hear them from the current president.

On this Day of Memory, we mourn brave citizens who laid their lives down for our freedom. They lived and died as Americans. May we always honor them. May we always embrace them. And may we always be faithful to who they were and what they fought for.

Michelle Malkin has a thought provoking tribute to those who are missing among us.

Thanks to Lucianne on Facebook for the title.

Sissy Willis has a Memorial Day Salute.

24 May 2008 11:18 am

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CARROL COPELAND • TIMES RECORD Darby Junior High School students Kaheem Spann, left, and Miguel Castorena attach an American flag to a pole before raising it Thursday morning at the U.S. National Cemetery. About 60 Darby students put up 300 large U.S. flags, 50 state flags and more than 12,000 small U.S. flags on individual graves. The annual Memorial Day service will be at the cemetery Sunday at 2 p.m.

How to teach Junior High students to love and respect our American heritage? Take them to the National Cemetery to raise American flags on Memorial Day. It is there that they will learn that Americans will die for their freedom.

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Waldo Fisher salutes after placing a flag at the headstone of his son, Dustin, at the U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith on Thursday. Fisher, a civics teacher at Darby Junior High School and president of Chapter 467 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, led a group of about 130 Darby students, who placed flags on the 10,325 headstones of deceased veterans and decorated the site for a Memorial Day observance Sunday at 2 p.m. Army Spc. Dustin Fisher was killed while serving in Iraq on May 24, 2005.

Waldo Fisher is now retired from teaching Civics at Darby but he continues in his quest to honor America’s fallen, including his own son.

A couple dozen Darby Junior High students were busy placing flags at the national cemetery in Fort Smith this morning.

These volunteers were dressing up the cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day ceremonies on Monday. Former Darby teacher and Vietnam vet, Waldo Fisher started this annual project 18 years ago when the national cemetery was having problems getting enough volunteers to place the flags.

“18 years later we are here again and we will be here as long as I’m alive, hopefully this program will go on forever,” said Waldo Fisher, retired Darby teacher.

Fisher says the students are picked by their teachers and they must display good citizenship through out the year to qualify. He says the goal is to teach them responsibility and respect.

The video is here.

William O. Darby Junior High School is named for the late Gen. William O. Darby, founder of Darby’s Rangers which evolved into the US Army Rangers. Darby was born and grew up in Fort Smith and graduated from West Point in 1933. He is well remembered and honored here.

27 May 2007 04:06 pm

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On the morning of Memorial Day, May 30th, 1962, I was sleeping in because school was over and I had completed the sixth grade. My mother came into the room and whispered my name. I ignored her, thinking, “she’s forgotten school is out. I can sleep in.”

When my Dad came in the room, and said, “Laura Lee.” I noticed his voice cracking. I sat up in bed, rubbing my eyes, wondering what was wrong. I opened my eyes and saw Daddy’s face. His eyes were red and he was crying.

“We lost Cookie this morning.” Daddy said.

Cookie was our beautiful, black cocker spaniel and the best dog that ever lived. My parents got her right after they married, so Cookie was, from the beginning, part of the trinity in my life: Father, Mother and Cookie.

When we were tasked to write essays or reports at school I invariably wrote about Cookie.

Cookie was very affectionate and gentle with all of us. She tolerated my youngest brother when he was little. He had a habit of sucking his thumb and holding his ear. I wasn’t a good influence in getting him to quit because I thought it was so cute. When anyone was sitting next to him instead of holding his own ear, he would hold theirs. So, Cookie also tolerated Guy’s ear holding habit.

She also welcomed the new pets that came along, the cats, the goat, the chickens, and our horse, Scout. Scout didn’t like dogs because a neighbors’ dogs had once chased him in the back pasture, running him up against the barbed wire fence.

One day, when Scout had the run of our yard he backed Cookie up against the house.

Cookie had a habit of making her rounds through the neighborhood early in the morning. On Memorial Day, 1962, our newspaper boy knocked on the door, waking up my parents to tell them that he had found Cookie lying in the middle of the street, right in front of our house.

She hadn’t been hit by a car, so Daddy surmised that she had had a heart attack. She was sixteen years old.

The morning was full of tears. All of us were heartbroken. Daddy went out to the backyard and dug a grave on the mound, a high place in the yard. We had buried one of our beloved cats, Frisky, there. He chose the spot right in the middle of the mound. My little sister went into the back pasture and cut a tiny cedar tree to place at the foot of the grave. Daddy carved Cookie’s name into a tree branch and fashioned a cross, placing the Tiger Lillies that Cookie loved in the intersection of the two branches.

When we laid Cookie to rest Daddy said a prayer and spoke of the blessing that Cookie had added to our lives. I remember hearing the term, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” for the first time. On one side of the house the tiger lillies bloomed. That was Cookie’s favorite sleeping spot. The tiger lillies are still blooming today as if in remembrance of the little black dog that found comfort beside them.

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The lonely Tiger Lillies still bloom.

That was the first Memorial Day that hurt. Back then, Memorial Day was an actual fixed day in the calendar. There were no three day weekends. I was supposed to go to a Sixth Grade party at my friend, Paulette’s house. I could stay only a few minutes.

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The little cedar tree, planted by my sister, now towers over the mound. We’ve always called it The Cookie Tree. The ice storm of 2000 damaged it considerably, but it still stands as an enduring memorial to the little dog we loved.

Our family had taken us to the Oak Cemetery on Memorial Days before, but this was a time in between wars; the Vietnam War hadn’t yet caught hold in the American psyche.

We had been taken to visit the graves of our great grandparents on earlier Memorial Days and on that Memorial Day, 1962, we were planning to visit Oak Cemetary, where my grandfather, Guy Smith Webster had been buried just a year before. That was my first big heartbreak, he was the grandfather I followed around like a puppydog.

We didn’t make it that year. After burying Cookie that morning the day was pretty much spent in tears. Tommy Across the Street was watching us gather around the grave and told his mother that he thought our grandmother must have died.

In future years I was to learn the true meaning of Memorial Day. Back then I thought Memorial Day honored any and all dead and on every subsequent Memorial Day our family always thought of Cookie.

Five years later, when the Vietnam War was raging, a close friend of our family, Butch Cecil, was killed in action on July 14th, 1967 in the Quang Tri Province.

Butch was laid to rest in the oldest National Cemetery in the country, The U.S. National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

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My Uncle Max was always a towering figure in my life. He was a great athlete who played with my Dad on their Fast Pitch Softball teams. He was the pitcher who many times hurled no-hitters and helped take their team to four straight state championships. He was later nominated for the Fast Pitch Softball Hall of Fame.

Uncle Max entertained us when we were kids by playing the violin, making us laugh with his funny jokes and doing smoke tricks with his cigarettes. I didn’t know when I was young that he had also served in the Pacific Theater in World War ll as a tail gunner. One day when I was a teenager Uncle Max quietly brought out his World War ll photo album.

In future years the veterans of wars in our family would be laid to rest in the National Cemetery. My precious Uncle Max, my father-in-law, C.C, both World War ll vets, and my husband’s grandfather, Riley Nolan Donoho, who served in World War l.

I was blessed to know my uncles and father-in-law; they were steadfast men who left home to go to war and, thankfully, came home safely. They lived through the wars, had families and helped them to grow up.

Butch Cecil and a million other combat veterans, lost in our nations wars, gave their all. Those in the military today continue to give their lives for our country in the War on Terror. I learned this weekend that one 875th Engineers’ soldier was killed and another wounded this past Saturday in Iraq.

In this age of three-day weekends, Memorial Day seems to have lost its meaning. Many Americans don’t find it convenient nowadays to find time to pause to honor our American War dead. It’s just not in the three-day weekend schedule. There are the picnics, the traveling, the cookouts and all the rest.

Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.” — VFW 2002 Memorial Day address

The news media brings us articles on how to keep sunburn at bay, barbecuing greener and The Indianapolis 500.

Little of the coverage focuses on the sacrifice of the combat veterans who served our country. If it’s covered at all, it’s to present the body count, not the heroic acts and progress made in our war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s just another day to many Americans, just as it was to me when I was young. I only knew it as the sad day that my dog, Cookie died. Most Americans celebrate the Memorial Day weekend as just another day off work.

It’s so much more. Memorial Day fills me with gratitude for the many fine Americans who have defended our country by giving their all. It makes me sad for all of the families who’ve lost their precious loved ones. It’s bittersweet because, while many of us have family members doing their duty in harms way, a multitude of Americans aren’t even aware that the war is ongoing, and our troops could use the support of all of us. On Memorial Day this year, none of us should sleep in, it’s not just another day to play, it’s a day to honor the best and bravest of all Americans.

Sisu understands the reason why we, as Americans, owe our every sunrise to those who made it possible.

Lorie Byrd at Wizbang has a Memorial Day Roundup.

UPDATE:

Final Roll Call

Blackfive has a Memorial Day Thank You from those left behind.

When I was a little girl, I loved to hear Kate Smith singing, God Bless America. I still love to hear her sing it.

“This year, with the war clouds of Europe so lately threatening the peace of the entire world, I felt I wanted to do something special - something that would not only be a memorial to our soldiers - but would also emphasize just how much America means to each and every one of us … The song is ‘God Bless America’; the composer, Mr. Irving Berlin. When I first tried it over, I felt, here is a song that will be timeless - it will never die - others will thrill to its beauty long after we are gone. In my humble estimation, this is the greatest song Irving Berlin has ever composed … As I stand before the microphone and sing it with all my heart, I’ll be thinking of our veterans and I’ll be praying with every breath I draw that we shall never have another war…” — KS introducing “God Bless America” on her radio show, Armistice Day, November 11, 1938


Cox & Forkum commemorates Memorial Day here.

On this Day of Memory, we mourn brave citizens who laid their lives down for our freedom. They lived and died as Americans. May we always honor them. May we always embrace them. And may we always be faithful to who they were and what they fought for.

President Bush today at Arlington Cemetery.

Take time to remember the three members of the Weapons Intelligence Flight lost during their Iraq deployment.