Sunday, May 27, 2007
Memorial Day 2007
If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.
I saw something extraordinarily simple and beautiful Friday morning during a work trip. Looking out across the water while driving over the bridge by Parris Island, about a mile or so away in the distance I saw the giant American flag blowing in the morning breeze above the parade ground. It filled me with a sense of awe and a sense of pride. I feel a very special kinship with the men & women who serve this nation, for they are truly my brothers and sisters. I was once one of them, and we are all joined by a special bond of duty, honor, and country. Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, cook, grunt, mechanic, tanker, supply clerk, truck driver, aviator, submariner, intel analyst, or medic, from lowly privates to lofty generals; I am you and you are me, and we are each other.
This weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. Unfortunately, to most Americans, this means nothing more than a long weekend full of beer and barbecue, sporting events and sleeping late. Corporate America thinks this weekend is nothing more than an excuse to hold sales on cars and shoes and pots and pans. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t relax and have fun this weekend; far from it. I have plans for fun myself, since Memorial Day weekend is also my birthday. But my revelry each year is also tempered by somber & sober reflection and remembrance of my comrades in arms who made the ultimate sacrifice, paying the price so that this nation, and other nations, could be free.
Earlier this week, yet another funeral was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Finally, after 54 years, John B. McGovern, known as “Earthquake Magoon”, was buried with full honors. He died on May 6, 1954 while his C-119 Flying Boxcar cargo plane was hit by ground fire while parachuting a howitzer to the besieged French garrison at Dien Bien Phu. Reportedly, as he was breaking apart & going down his last radio transmission was “I’m taking her in, boys". His remains were recovered from an unmarked grave in Laos in 2002, identified last year, and now he is finally at rest among his fellow warriors.
Still missing are two soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division, SPC Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and PVT Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan. The search for them continues into its third week. Also missing, but seldom discussed, is SPC Matt Maupin, 21, an Army Reservist from Batavia, Ohio, who was captured on April 9, 2004 by Iraqi insurgents. You three are not forgotten.
As a former Military Policeman, I want to tip my hat and raise my glass to a fallen MP on this Memorial Day. PFC Sam Williams Huff was barely a year out of her prom dress and cap & gown when she was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq on April 17, 2005. Sam turned down a modeling contract and put off college to enlist as an MP. At 18 years of age, Sam Huff was buried at Arlington.
Lastly, the Medal of Honor Museum opened this week aboard the USS Yorktown at Patriot’s Point. There were 42 of the 110 living Medal of Honor recipients on hand for the opening of the museum. I’ve had the honor and privilege to meet a couple Medal of Honor recipients in my lifetime, and it has always been a humbling and heartening experience. Skip going to see the world’s largest ball of twine; this landmark if far more important.
I leave you all, my comrades, with this poem, which I first read on a wall at the US Army Military Police School at Ft. McClellan, Alabama in 1988.
I was that which others did not want to be.
I went where others feared to go and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness...should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear; and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.
I have cried, pained, and hoped...but most of all, I have lived times others would say were best forgotten.
At least someday, I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was...a Soldier.
George L. Skypeck