Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Memorial Day is an opportunity to show we are indeed a grateful nation. There will be a special Memorial Day Celebration on Monday in Poolesville...unfortunately I must work all day, but I'll try to get hold of and post some photos.

The Indy 500 took place on Sunday and John was there! Not only did he attend the race, he participated in the Pre-Race Military Appreciation and son was on national television! John told me he would be on detail, wearing his ABU's. I suggested he wear his BCG's, so that I would have a better chance of spotting him...he declined. As Hubster and I watched the opening ceremonies, there was a shot of an American Flag held by many soldiers (all in ABU's). I figured my son had the honor of holding the flag and I thought that was pretty neat. I was wrong! Oh yeah! As the Bagpipers finished playing "Amazing Grace", there was a 3-Volley Salute and then a Bugler began to play TAPS. As it finished, the camera scanned the faces of several soldiers...and yes... THERE. WAS. MY. SON! John had asked we video tape the Pre-Race for him, which we as soon as we get it copied to a DVD, I will upload and post. A proud day for this mom!

I spoke with my oldest son on Sunday, as well! (have I mentioned Sunday was a very good day?) He is doing well. On July 27th, B will take his GRE (Graduate Record Examination); he is looking forward to attending Graduate School in the fall of 2010. I am so very proud of my son! He is a Psychology major, and I know in my heart he will do very well on this Exam! In the next few days, he will send me his flight info...yes; my son is coming home for a visit in August! Hopefully John will come home the same weekend and I have all four of my children together (at least for a couple of hours!)

I've received several amazing Memorial Day items, all worthy of sharing!

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Don't forget to set your clocks, cells, PDA's - whatever - for 3PM on 5/25/09 for the National Moment of Remembrance!

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Please stop by and visit CommonCents he has uploaded some great videos worth watching!

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And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

~Lee Greenwood

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by Mackubin Thomas Owens

May 25, 2009

Mackubin Thomas Owens is professor of strategyand force
planning at the Naval War College in Newport and aMarine
infantry veteran of Vietnam. He is also Editor ofOrbis,
FPRI's quarterly journal of world affairs, and a senior
fellow of FPRI.


by Mackubin Thomas Owens

On Monday, we will mark the 141st anniversary of thefirst
official observation of the holiday we now call Memorial
Day, as established by General John A. Logan's "General
Order No. 11" of the Grand Army of the Republic dated 5 May,
1868. This order reads in part: "The 30th day ofMay 1868
is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowersand
otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in
defense of their country during the late rebellion, and
whose bodies lie in almost every city, village andhamlet
churchyard in the land." Logan's order in factratified a
practice that was already widespread, both in the North and
the South, in the years immediately following the Civil War.

As Americans continue to fight and die in Iraq and
Afghanistan, it is fitting that we recur to the true meaning
of this day. Alas, for too many Americans, Memorial Day has
come to mean nothing more than another three-dayweekend,
albeit the one on which the beaches open, signifying the
beginning of summer. Unfortunately, the tendency to see the
holiday as merely an opportunity to attend a weekendcook-
out obscures even the vestiges of what the day was meant to
observe: a solemn time, serving both as catharsis for those
who fought and survived, and to ensure that those who follow
will not forget the sacrifice of those who diedthat the
American Republic and the principles that sustain it, might
live. Some examples might help us to understand whatthis
really means.

On July 2nd, 1863, Major General Dan Sickles, commanding III
Corps of the Army of the Potomac, held the Union left along
Cemetery Ridge south of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Dissatisfied with his position, he made an unauthorized
movement to higher ground along the Emmitsburg Pike tohis
front. In so doing, he created a gap between his corpsand
Major General Winfield Scott Hancock's II Corps on his
right. Before the mistake could be rectified, Sickles'two
under strength divisions were struck by General James
Longstreet's veteran I Corps of Robert E. Lee's Confederate
Army of Northern Virginia in an attack that ultimately
threatened the entire Union position on Cemetery Ridge.

At the height of the fighting, a fresh Alabama brigadeof
1,500 men, pursuing the shattered remnants of Sickles corps,
was on the verge of penetrating the Union defenses on
Cemetery Ridge. Union commanders including Hancockrushed
reinforcements forward to plug the gap, but at acritical
juncture, the only available troops were eightcompanies--
262 men-- of the 1st Minnesota Volunteers. Pointing tothe
Alabamans' battle flags, Hancock shouted to theregiment's
colonel, "Do you see those colors? Take them."

As the 1st Minnesota's colonel later related,"Every man
realized in an instant what that order meant--death or
wounds to us all; the sacrifice of the regiment to gaina
few minutes time and save the position, and probably the
battlefield--and every man saw and accepted thenecessity
for the sacrifice."

The Minnesotans did not capture the colors of theAlabama
brigade, but the shock of their attack broke the
Confederates' momentum and bought critical time--at the cost
of 215 killed and wounded, including the colonel and all but
three of his officers. The position was held, but inshort
order, the 1st Minnesota ceased to exist, suffering a
casualty rate of 82 percent, the highest of the war for any
Union regiment in a single engagement.

Memorial Day is about the sacrifice of the other units, for
example, the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment of black
soldiers whose exploits were portrayed in the movieGlory.
The 54th's assault, in the face of hopeless odds,against
Battery Wagner, which dominated the approaches to Charleston
Harbor, cost the regiment over half its number andproved
beyond the shadow of a doubt that black soldiers werethe
equal, in both bravery and determination, of white soldiers.

In No True Glory, Bing West recounts the epic story ofthe
battle for Fallujah. What Admiral Nimitz said of the Marines
on Iwo Jima applied to the battle of Fallujah as well:
"uncommon valor was a common virtue." Ourtroops continue
to demonstrate uncommon valor on a daily basis.

But Memorial Day is also about individuals we may have
known. It is about a contemporary of my father, who himself
fought and was wounded in the Pacific during World WarII.
Marine Sgt. John Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for
his actions on Guadalcanal. Though he was not obligatedto
do so, he insisted on returning to combat and was killed on
the first day of the struggle for Iwo Jima.

Memorial Day is also about Corporal Larry Boyer, USMC, a
member of the platoon that I led in Vietnam fromSeptember
1968 until May 1969. The men of that platoon would all have
preferred to be somewhere other than the Republic of
Vietnam's northern Quang Tri Province, but they weredoing
their duty as it was understood at the time. In those days,
men built their lives around their military obligation, and
if a war happened on their watch, fighting was part ofthe

But Corporal Boyer went far beyond the call of duty. Ata
time when college enrollment was a sure way to avoid
military service and a tour in Vietnam, Corporal Boyer,
despite excellent grades, quit, enlisted in the Marines, and
volunteered to go to Vietnam as an infantryman. Becauseof
his high aptitude test scores, the Marine Corps sent him to
communications-electronics school instead. But Corporal
Boyer kept "requesting mast," insisting that he hadjoined
the Marines to fight in Vietnam. He got his wish, and on 29
May, 1969, he gave the "last full measure ofdevotion" to
his country and comrades.

What leads men to behave as the soldiers of the 1st
Minnesota, the 54th Massachusetts, the soldiers and Marines
in Iraq and Afghanistan, John Basilone, Larry Boyer, and the
countless others who have shared their sacrifice? Since the
Vietnam War, too many of our countrymen have concluded that
those who have died in battle are "victims." How else are
we to understand the Vietnam War Memorial--"The Wall"--a
structure that evokes not respect for the honored dead, but
on the one hand, pity for those whose names appear onthe
wall, and on the other, relief on the part of those who, for
whatever reason, did not serve?

Most Americans in general and veterans in particular reject
this characterization. But there is a tendency thesedays
also to reject the polar opposite: that these men diedfor
"a cause." Many cite the observation ofGlen Gray in his
book, The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle:
"Numberless soldiers have died, more or less willingly,not
for country or honor or religious faith or forany other
abstract good, but because they realized that by fleeing
their posts and rescuing themselves, they would expose their
companions to greater danger. Such loyalty to the groupis
the essence of fighting morale."

It is my own experience that Gray is right about whatmen
think about in the heat of combat: the impact of our actions
on our comrades always looms large in our minds.. As Oliver
Wendell Holmes observed in his Memorial Day address of 1884,
"In the great democracy of self-devotion private and general
stand side by side." But the tendency of the individual
soldier to focus on the particulars of combat makes Memorial
Day all the more important, for this day permits us to
enlarge the individual soldier's view, to give meaningto
the sacrifice that was accepted of some but offered by all,
not only to acknowledge and remember the sacrifice, butto
validate it.

In the history of the world, many good soldiers havedied
bravely and honorably for bad or unjust causes. Americans
are fortunate in that we have been given a way ofavoiding
this situation by linking the sacrifice of our soldiersto
the meaning of the nation. At the dedication of the cemetery
at Gettysburg four months after the battle, President
Abraham Lincoln fleshed out the understanding ofwhat he
called in his First Inaugural Address, the "mystic chords of
memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot
grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this
broad land..."

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address gives universal meaning to the
particular deaths that occurred on that hallowed ground,
thus allowing us to understand Memorial Day in the light of
the Fourth of July, to comprehend the honorable end ofthe
soldiers in the light of the glorious beginning and purpose
of the nation. The deaths of the soldiers at Gettysburg, of
those who died during the Civil War as a whole andindeed,
of those who have fallen in all the wars ofAmerica, are
validated by reference to the nation and its founding
principles as articulated in the Declaration of

Though Lincoln was eulogizing the Union dead at Gettysburg,
the Confederate fallen were no less worthy of praise,and
the dialectic of the Civil War means that we include them in
our national day of remembrance. As Holmes observed,"...we
respected [those who stood against us] as every man witha
heart must respect those who give all for their belief."

Some might claim that to emphasize the"mystic chords of
memory" linking Memorial Day and Independence Day is to
glorify war and especially to trivialize individual loss and
the end of youth and joy. For instance, Larry Boyer wasan
only son. How can the loved ones of a fallen soldierever
recover from such a loss? I corresponded with Cpl.Boyer's
mother for some time after his death. Her inconsolable pain
and grief put me in mind of Rudyard Kipling's poem, Epitaphs
of the War, verse IV, "An Only Son:" "I have slainnone but
my mother, She (Blessing her slayer) died of grief forme."
Kipling too, lost his only son in World War I.
But as Holmes said in 1884, "...grief is not the end of all.
I seem to hear the funeral march become apaean. I see
beyond the forest the moving banners of a hiddencolumn.
Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid usthink of
life, not death--of life to which in their youth theylent
the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, thegreat
chorus of life and joy begins again, and amidthe awful
orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies ofgood
and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope
and will."

Linking Memorial Day and Independence Day as Lincoln
essentially did enables us to recognize that while someof
those who died in America's wars were not as brave as others
and indeed, some were not brave at all, each and everyone
was far more a hero than a victim. And it alsoallows us
forever to apply Lincoln's encomium not only to the dead of
the 1st Minnesota and the rest who died on theground at
Gettysburg that Lincoln came to consecrate, but also to John
Basilone, Larry Boyer, and the countless soldiers, sailors,
airmen, and Marines who have died in all of America's wars,
that a nation dedicated to the liberal principles of liberty
and equality might "not perish from the earth."

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May Almighty God Bless each and every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine.
May those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms, rest in peace.
May the families who have lost loved ones at war, know comfort in their hearts.
May there never be a day, we forget why we are such a blessed nation!


coffeypot said...

Another great post, AM. I saw John today, though I didn't know it at the time. I look forward to seeing your video and pointing him out.

I just wish this country would wake up and realize what we have and what we have lost in getting to where we are. I miss the time were we 'boys' knew we would be drafted if we didn't join. We werem't crazy about it, but we did it. That is one of the reasons I respect those men and women serving today. They don't have too, but they are.

AirmanMom said...

coffeypot...thank you for your kind words. It was a pleasant surprise to actually see my son's face, then profile as he turned to march. I, too hold much respect for the fact we have an all voluntary military.

Donna said...

Another beautiful post! And how proud you have to be of your sons! I know you have to be looking forward to seeing them all together soon!

Mary Ellen said...

Wonderful post. You always find such perfect material.

How exciting about John - I can't wait until you post the video!

Count me as part of the grateful nation.

Sarge Charlie said...

This is truly a great post, you can count me as part of the grateful nation, today everyone should remember that all gave some and some gave all….

AirmanMom said... will be good to see all four of my children in one room...if it is meant to be :)
Thank you for stopping by!

AirmanMom said...

ME...thank you for your kind words! Happy Memorial Day!

AirmanMom said...

sarge...and we will never forget those who gave all!

Debbie said...

Thank you from a veteran for a beautiful tribute and a wonderful blog. Always takes me back...

AirmanMom said...

debbie...I thank you!

Fragrant Liar said...

A lovely post. Thank you.

AirmanMom said...

FL...I thank you for taking the time to stop by!

Left Coast Rebel said...

Beautiful post here....I am moved by your words, thank you for putting this here and to your son's service.....

AirmanMom said...

lcr...I thank you for stopping by.

MightyMom said...

oh happy day!!

way to go!

AirmanMom said...

mighty mom...thank you!