I heard a great line in church yesterday! (There’s a statement you probably don’t read very often!) The pastor made the comment that sometimes “We Eeyore our way through life.” It’s a kind of a hum drum, thanks for noticing me, existence. About as electrifying a personality as one can have! The guy who’s like our friend Eeyore attracts people to him in droves just to see where he got what he got so they can get some too! Not!
Today, Memorial Day 2017, we honor the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice by dying for the cause that is the United State of America. One website that has been tracking those numbers, but remains several years behind, shows the total of Americans killed as a direct result of enemy action to be more than 821,813 (http://www.americanwarlibrary.com/allwars.htm) That number, which is a low estimate, includes the 44 people of Flight 83, September 11, 2001. When they all agreed to “Let’s Roll” they weren’t saying it in an Eeyore tone of voice!
Another non-Eeyore soldier, who was not KIA but died years later in a fateful small aircraft crash in Virginia, was Audie Murphy. Only 19 when he entered the U.S. Army (the Navy and Marines rejected him), he served with the 3rd Infantry and rose to the rank of first lieutenant. He was initially given a field promotion to second lieutenant before he was twenty-years-old. Audie Murphy remains the most decorated U.S. soldier of all time with 33 medals including the Medal of Honor. Most of those he was awarded before he was 21 years of age. His Congressional Medal of Honor citation reads as follows:
This Citation was awarded to Audie Murphy for “Conspicuous Gallantry and Intrepidity Involving Risk of Life Above and Beyond the Call of Duty In Action With the Enemy”, 26 January 1945. The citation reads:
2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy’s indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy’s objective.
That was no Eeyore on top of that tank destroyer!
Murphy, who became an actor and played himself in the movie, To Hell and Back, suffered from what we would call today, PTSD. With fits of rage, insomnia and nightmares, it is said he slept with a loaded 1911 45 under his pillow.
Murphy is quoted as saying, “Lead from the front” and “Freedom is what America means to the world.”
As for his character, one quote speaks volumes, “I never liked being called the “most decorated” soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did–guys who were killed.”
CMH recipients buried at Arlington usually have their markers inscribed with gold-leaf. Murphy asked that his remain plain. Suffering as he did from PTSD, Audie Murphy “campaigned vigorously for the government to spend more time and money on taking care of returning Vietnam War veterans, as he more than most others knew exactly what kinds of problems they were going to have.” (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001559/bio)
I did not choose Lt. Audie Murphy because he was such a highly decorated soldier nor because he was a movie actor. I chose him because he was like most of the heroes we celebrate on Memorial Day, young, (Murphy just 19 when he held off the German assault troops), from poor families, and scared to death but doing the job anyway. They had a vision for something bigger than themselves. Perhaps their faith, their family; but certainly, their love of country was a driving factor.
Today we salute the memories of these brave men and women and we honor the Gold Star families across this great land. There isn’t a single Eeyore in the lot!