Memorial Day

posted at 9:46 am on May 25, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

Today we honor those men and women who went into our nation’s service and never returned.  It originally began as Decoration Day shortly after the Civil War.  Its specific origins have been disputed; some say it started in Waterloo, New York, while others credit freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina.  Both traditions combined into a national day of remembrance within a generation, but oddly did not become a federal holiday until almost a century later.  In 1968, Congress finally recognized Memorial Day as a federal holiday in its present form as the last Monday in May.

In preparing a tribute to those fallen in war, I researched recipients of the Medal of Honor.  Many already know the stories of heroes from campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan such as Paul Smith, Michael Mansoor, and Michael Murphy.  I’d like to share the citation for Corporal Jason L Dunham, USMC, from the Iraq War:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Rifle Squad Leader, 4th Platoon, Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines (Reinforced), Regimental Combat Team 7, First Marine Division (Reinforced), on 14 April 2004. Corporal Dunham’s squad was conducting a reconnaissance mission in the town of Karabilah, Iraq, when they heard rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire erupt approximately two kilometers to the west. Corporal Dunham led his Combined Anti-Armor Team towards the engagement to provide fire support to their Battalion Commander’s convoy, which had been ambushed as it was traveling to Camp Husaybah.

As Corporal Dunham and his Marines advanced, they quickly began to receive enemy fire. Corporal Dunham ordered his squad to dismount their vehicles and led one of his fire teams on foot several blocks south of the ambushed convoy. Discovering seven Iraqi vehicles in a column attempting to depart, Corporal Dunham and his team stopped the vehicles to search them for weapons. As they approached the vehicles, an insurgent leaped out and attacked Corporal Dunham. Corporal Dunham wrestled the insurgent to the ground and in the ensuing struggle saw the insurgent release a grenade. Corporal Dunham immediately alerted his fellow Marines to the threat. Aware of the imminent danger and without hesitation, Corporal Dunham covered the grenade with his helmet and body, bearing the brunt of the explosion and shielding his Marines from the blast. In an ultimate and selfless act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, he saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines.

By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Corporal Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country, thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Not every MOH recipient gave his life in wartime.  Danger and death come during peacetime for those who serve their country, too.  In 1938, Lt. Carlton Barmore Hutchins gave his life for his flight crew during a training mission:

Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy. Place and date: Off California Coast, 2 February 1938. Born: 12 September 1904, Albany, N.Y. Accredited to: New York. Citation: For extraordinary heroism as the pilot of the U.S. Navy Seaplane PBY-2 No. 0463 (11-P-3) while engaged in tactical exercises with the U.S. Fleet on 2 February 1938. Although his plane was badly damaged, Lt. Hutchins remained at the controls endeavoring to bring the damaged plane to a safe landing and to afford an opportunity for his crew to escape by parachutes. His cool, calculated conduct contributed principally to the saving of the lives of all who survived. His conduct on this occasion was above and beyond the call of duty.

George Robert Cholister and Henry Clay Drexler gave their lives to save their comrades on the USS Trenton on 20 October 1924:

Rank and organization: Boatswain’s Mate First Class, U.S. Navy. Born: 18 December 1898, Camden, N.J. Accredited to: New Jersey. (Awarded by Special Act of Congress 3 February 1933.) Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on the occasion of a fire on board the U S.S. Trenton. At 3:35 on the afternoon of 20 October 1924, while the Trenton was preparing to fire trial installation shots from the two 6-inch guns in the forward twin mount of that vessel, 2 charges of powder ignited. Twenty men were trapped in the twin mount. Four died almost immediately and 10 later from burns and inhalation of flames and gases. The 6 others were severely injured. Cholister, without thought of his own safety, on seeing that the charge of powder from the left gun was ignited, jumped for the right charge and endeavored to put it in the immersion tank. The left charge burst into flame and ignited the right charge before Cholister could accomplish his purpose. He fell unconscious while making a supreme effort to save his shipmates and died the following day.

Rank and organization: Ensign, U.S. Navy. Born: 7 August 1901, Braddock, Pa. Accredited to: Pennsylvania. (Awarded by Special Act of Congress, 3 February 1933.) Other Navy award: Navy Cross. Citation: For extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession on the occasion of a fire on board the U.S.S. Trenton. At 3:35 on the afternoon of 20 October 1924, while the Trenton was preparing to fire trial installation shots from the two 6-inch guns in the forward twin mount of that vessel, 2 charges of powder ignited. Twenty men were trapped in the twin mount. Four died almost immediately and 10 later from burns and inhalation of flame and gases. The 6 others were severely injured. Ens. Drexler, without thought of his own safety, on seeing that the charge of powder for the left gun was ignited, jumped for the right charge and endeavored to put it in the immersion tank. The left charge burst into flame and ignited the right charge before Ens. Drexler could accomplish his purpose. He met his death while making a supreme effort to save his shipmates.

You can read more about the men and women who received our nation’s highest honor for their sacrifice at the US Army’s MOH archive.  Keep all of them, and all who have given their lives in war and peace to protect this nation, in your prayers and thoughts today.


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Comments

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

In paradisum deducant te angeli,
in tuo adventu
suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te
in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs receive you
in your coming,
and may they guide you
into the holy city, Jerusalem.
May the chorus of angels receive you
and with Lazarus once poor
may you have eternal rest.

Amen.

Loxodonta on May 25, 2009 at 2:49 PM

Link

THANK YOU!

With Love.

AlreadyKnownAs on May 25, 2009 at 3:07 PM

I could not be home for Memorial Day, so left it to my family to decorate the graves of Great-Uncle Arthur, Uncle Paul (WWII POW), and of course, my parents.

So I walked down to a local cemetary that was established during the Colonial period. The Revolutionary War vets’ gravestones are hard to read – the stones are so worn away. They have put up new brass markers/flag holders with the texts of the inscriptions. I liked this one best:

John P. Miller
Trumpeter

Bet he never called retreat. Bet he didn’t even know how.

Wethal on May 25, 2009 at 3:17 PM

Remember

DarkCurrent on May 25, 2009 at 3:35 PM

I keep hoping someday we as a nation will pass a measure making it mandatory that all veterans who have served in a combat zone receive free, unlimited, accessible health and rehab care for life. It’s only right.

Constantine on May 25, 2009 at 4:07 PM

And also to my granddad:

My granddad:

Harold William Sorenson

Served in World War II, starting in North Africa, Italy and going all the way through V-E Day. Passed from this world in October of 2005 – and greatly missed.

671st Bomb Squadron
416th Bomb Group
9th Air Force

Bomber crewman in twin-engine attack bombers such as the Douglas A-20 Havoc and the Douglas A-26 Invader.

theflyonthewall on May 25, 2009 at 4:47 PM

The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.

~Thomas Campbell

Del Dolemonte on May 25, 2009 at 5:20 PM

Salute.

oakpack on May 25, 2009 at 5:37 PM

Everyone go to willnotvanish.com

A soldiers last post before his death.

blatantblue on May 25, 2009 at 5:50 PM

SOLDIER’S CODE
1) I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
2) I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.
3) If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
4) If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me, and will back them up in every way.
5) When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am bound to give only name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies, or harmful to their cause.
6) I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Vietnam 1967-68-69-70-71 with the 1st Cav Div,and MACV.

Skok on May 25, 2009 at 5:54 PM

I am probably alive today because my father’s unit was quarantined for the mumps before D Day. Of the men not quarantined, I was told most died in the landings. My father fought in the battle of the Ardennes, and was at Berlin when the Soviet entered. A friend’s dad pulled pilots from burning planes on landing strips in the Pacific. Another friend’s father, a navy welder, had to use a cutting torch to cut through a wall shielding live ammo.

We cannot get a grasp on how much was done because these men did their jobs and went on, and little was documented.

Today people are shocked by Gitmo and waterboarding.

I am shocked by the magnitude of sacrifice and independently decided acts of heroism by such a multitude as can not be documented

There are marvelous archives being created on line. Take some time to view pictures of men who were known to few yet did so much. Here is a touching start from the National Archives – Pictures of African Americans During WWII. Start anywhere, and view picture after picture

These people did it so I can be left alone in my house with my pets and the terrorists at Gitmo did their acts so I could be removed from my peaceful home

I am so grateful for the good men

entagor on May 25, 2009 at 6:01 PM

A sincere thank you from a Navy vet, to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of liberty and freedom, and protecting the great nation we are blessed to live in.

Peace.

jstueve on May 25, 2009 at 6:27 PM

GUESS WHO’S PLAYING GOLF ON MEMORIAL DAY? HIS NAME STARTS WITH AN O. NOPE NOT OPRAH, NOT OSAMA. TAKE ANOTHER GUESS.

jaboba on May 25, 2009 at 6:33 PM

jaboba on May 25, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Not doubting, but do you have a link?

And, for a president, he lacks any understanding of the symbolism of his acts…
Does he not know that many would find it reprehensible to golf on memorial day?

Or, even more cynical, is it possible he doesn’t care?

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 6:59 PM

We attended a service today which was quite moving except that the main speaker, a Viet Nam war vet (i.e., old enough to know better), spoke the beginning words of the Declaration of Independence with the following omissions, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”

I’m curious if anyone else attended a service and heard anything like this. I am sad for our nation that seems to have ripped God away from everything, even our founding documents.

PrincipledPilgrim on May 25, 2009 at 7:26 PM

jaboba on May 25, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Not doubting, but do you have a link?

And, for a president, he lacks any understanding of the symbolism of his acts…
Does he not know that many would find it reprehensible to golf on memorial day?

Or, even more cynical, is it possible he doesn’t care?

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 6:59 PM

Check Drudge.

Midas on May 25, 2009 at 9:02 PM

PrincipledPilgrim on May 25, 2009 at 7:26 PM

Pretty gutsy to change the Founders’ minds for them. Who made him editor, I wonder.

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2009 at 9:11 PM

Midas on May 25, 2009 at 9:02 PM

Thanks Midas, I did find it; there’s also a link here;

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/05/on-golf-course.html

To be fair, he did visit the Tomb of the Unknowns, and send wreaths to other cemetaries.

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 9:22 PM

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2009 at 9:11 PM

Sadly, we see too much of this; I saw a hymnal where the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic had been changed; the last verse now says;
“As he died to make all holy,
Let us live to make all free”

I know, it’s not a founding document, but if the author had intended it to be this way, she’d have written it this way.

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 10:07 PM

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 10:07 PM

Aren’t these same hyper-sensitive folks the ones that are suppose to bring us all together? How does that work when everything ever said or written offends somebody? And I remember when they made cracks about the “Me generation” during Pres. Reagan’s terms, I don’t know what to call these people.

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2009 at 10:20 PM

Cindy Munford on May 25, 2009 at 10:20 PM

Just more examples of political correctness run amuck; if you point out the writings inside the Lincoln Memorial, with their many references to our Creator, God, Angels, people accuse you of “trying to bring God into everything.” If you point out that our greatest scientists were working to try to understand the world to be (as Einstein said) “closer to God,” you’re looked at as some sort of loon.

It’s all very sad, at times…

Signing off now (time for bed.)

massrighty on May 25, 2009 at 10:25 PM

Blessed with a reasonable singing voice, during my last deployment I was asked by the Chaplin of my unit to sing during the memorial services to our lost. Three songs were usually on my list. With your indulgance, please read and imagine you are there with us as we paid honor. (I modified the lyrics at times and these adjustments are included.)

Brothers in Arms

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home is the lowlands
And always will be
Some day you’ll return to
Your cities and your farms
And you’ll no longer burn
To be brothers in arm

Through these fields of destruction
Baptism of fire
I’ve watched all your suffering
As the battles raged higher
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

Now the sun’s gone to hell
And the moon’s riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it’s written in the starlight
And every line on your palm
We’ll never forget you
Our brothers in arms…

Somebody’s Someone

Turn to the six o’clock news, another soldier dies
Tried to hide it but I couldn’t help it, I had to cry
When my little girl asked me daddy was he your friend
I said no, I didn’t even know him

But he was somebody’s someone, a neighbor, a husband
A brother, a father, and a mother’s only son
He was an uncle, a cousin, somebody’s best friend
And I’m sure at times a shoulder to lean on
He was somebody’s someone

So I sat there in that chair and helped him understand
How this brave young man gave his life for our land
And although he’s someone we’ll never know
To you and me he is a hero

He was somebody’s someone, a neighbor, a husband
A brother, a father, and a mother’s only son
He was an uncle, a cousin, somebody’s best friend
And I’m sure at times a shoulder to lean on
He was somebody’s someone

To the world he was a total stranger
Who kept us safe and out of danger
But now he’s just a picture on TV
Somebody’s memory

He was somebody’s someone, a neighbor, a husband
A brother, a father, and a mother’s only son
He was an uncle, a cousin, somebody’s best friend
And I’m sure at times a shoulder to lean on
He was somebody’s someone
He was somebody’s someone

If you’re reading this

If you’re reading this
And My mama’s sitting there
Looks like I only got a one-way ticket over here
I sure wish I could give you one more kiss
And war was just a game we played when we were kids

Well I’m laying down my gun
I’m hanging up my boots
I’m up here with God
And we’re both watching over you

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed that it would go
And if you’re reading this
I’m already home

If you’re reading this
Half way around the world
I won’t be there to see the birth of our little girl
I hope she looks like you
I hope she fights like me
Stands up for the innocent and the weak

I’m laying down my gun
I’m hanging up my boots
Tell dad I don’t regret that I followed in his shoes

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed that it would go
And if you’re reading this
I’m already home

If you’re reading this
There’s gonna come a day
When you move on and find someone else
And that’s okay
Just remember this
I’m in a better place
Where soldiers live in peace
And angels sing Amazing Grace

So lay me down
In that open field out on the edge of town
And know my soul
Is where my momma always prayed that it would go
And if you’re reading this
If you’re reading this
I’m already home

keyboarddude on May 25, 2009 at 11:12 PM

An American in Luxembourg

I sit among
my countrymen and
answer questions
concerning home–
it has been so long.
The fog engulfs me;
I tighten my coat
to ward off the wind
of their chill silence.
Dressed for a parade,
voices in unison,
they march in
perfect cadence
behind their general.
I reach out
to touch each
white cross.
–Glenda Sumner Wilkins

MyFathersDaughter on May 26, 2009 at 12:52 AM

Just a quick link to a story about the burial site for 188 War of 1812 POWs here in Halifax,

http://thechronicleherald.ca/Metro/1124018.html

Jim708 on May 26, 2009 at 6:20 AM