MAY, A Month for Memories

MayMay is a month for memories,  for remembering. It is the month we, here in the United States, remember mothers for their magnificent role in all our lives. Mostly good, some with sadder memories, still the women who are our mothers and grandmothers impacted our lives in ways we will never even fully know. So, we choose, a weekend, a particular Sunday, to remember particularly those to whom we owe so much.

We remember others, as well in the month of May. One weekend, in particular, has become synonymous with the month, with the ushering in of summer time, a time for picnics and family outings. Memorial Day weekend has become a time-honored tradition. Thankfully, many communities still honor the weekend with a parade, a quiet and solemn ceremony at a local cemetery; and events not marked so much by frivolity and fun; but, reflection and reverence. It is a time we remember the sacrifices of all the men and women who have given their lives in the guarding of our freedom in wars all across the globe. First begun immediately following the end of World War I, known then as, The Great War or the War to End All Wars, a new organization, the American Legion set out to honor the fallen soldiers from that war.

What became an enduring symbol of that war, is the poppy fields that cover the French hillsides. A poem made famous from that time and often read on Memorial Day in ceremonies across the country is called In Flanders Fields. I present its short verse to you here:

In Flanders Fields                 by John McCrae, 1872 – 1918

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

Flanders Fields

Today, a small, paper poppy is worn by many to remind the rest of us that this weekend of Memorial Day, we have many people for whom to be grateful.  From the 40 million men and women injured or killed in that Great War, about fifty percent died. The photo of fields from the movie, Atonement by Alex Bailey gives a short glimpse back to those fields.

Since that war, another 1.5 million Americans have been wounded in war and of those at least a quarter were killed.  So, it is appropriate that we remember their sacrifices for us, for our way of life, for the freedoms we have to enjoy those picnics and parades. This Memorial Day, remember those who gave you the America you have today, with all its sores and stubbed toes; she is still our America where we have the freedoms so preciously bought for us by those long gone and by those yet born who will walk their own walk, in Flanders Fields.

On a weekend before Memorial Day; Americans have chosen to honor yet another group of heroes. Men and women who, every day in America walk the thin blue line to keep our homes, neighborhoods and communities safe. Our law enforcement gathers with family and friends each year in May at the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial where those killed in the line of duty over the past year are immortalized with their name etched in the marble walls that, sadly, grow longer and fuller with each new year. This year, over three-hundred names will be added to the wall from the U.S. and her territories.  The war against police must stop but, until it does, those of us honored to be watched over by the men and women of the thin blue line should take this time in May to remember those who have given the last full measure of devotion to their brothers and sisters in blue, their communities and their nation. We should especially remember the families of those officers who have been murdered and re-commit ourselves to seeing that not only is justice done; but, those families never want for any single necessity because of the sacrifices made.

LEOMF

Yes, May, a month of memories. Let us never forget to remember.

 

Written by Dr. Ross l. Riggs, Chief of Police Retired, Member American Legion Post 44 Canton, Ohio

 

 

Eeyore, Memorial Day and You

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! Eeyore on 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!

American flag Gold Star POWMIA