A salute to the fallen
Today, Memorial Day, is a day for looking back and learning from the “dear-bought experience” Washington knew all too well, having served both in the Seven Years War with the British and in the Revolution against them.
This Memorial Day, 100 eastern North Carolina World War II veterans will be able to observe the day having seen the national memorial erected not only to them but also to the more than 850,000 men and women who became casualties of the conflict. Of those men and women, at least 400,000 of them wouldn’t come back home.
Retired Army Captain Pam Morgan organized the Memorial Flight that carried those veterans to the nation’s capital May 12, so that they might view the memorial to them and their fallen comrades.
With the youngest World War II servicemen and women being now at least 80 years old, it was far past time to honor them when the memorial was finished in 2004. It is even farther past time for us to hear their stories. The blood they and their fellow soldiers shed was not for themselves, but for all Americans.
Most of the around 16 million American men and women that served in the Second World War are gone, and with them, their stories. Read this, or any other newspaper, and you will know that America is losing its sons and daughters every day in the wars it is fighting.
Young American men and women have traditionally answered the call to arms with enthusiasm, whether to fight at Breed’s Hill, New Orleans, Antietam, Belleau Wood, Heurtgen Forest, Okinawa, the Chosin Reservoir, in the Ia Drang Valley, Hue City, Kandahar or Baghdad.
This country has left fallen men in all of those places, on all of those battlefields, and on countless others. Most of those who died we can only read about in books, so long gone are they and their deeds. Many are still alive to be honored, for a time.
This is the day to honor not only men who have given their lives, but also the men who put their lives at stake with those who survived these conflicts.
Hear their stories. Shake their hands. So many are unable to tell of what they saw, unable to put forth a hand to shake when one is offered.
There are no longer any living veterans of the First World War, much less the Civil War or the Revolution. Few of the American men and women who faced the Germans, Japanese and Italians between 1941 and 1945 survive. They are your fathers and mothers, your grandfathers and your great-uncles, your brothers and sisters, perhaps.
Thanks to Morgan, at least 100 area veterans will not leave this world without an awareness of the honor bestowed upon them.
America has never fought for anything less than the ideal of freedom — domestically or abroad. Every man, woman and child who has fallen in service to this country deserves our gratitude — today.
This piece is written in honor of the author’s grandfather, who is a World War II veteran.