Most Americans spent last weekend paying tribute, in one way or another, to the million plus American men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we all enjoy today. I will confess to you that I am a sappy old patriot who occasionally gets choked up during Memorial Day ceremonies such as those I attended in Summerville and Shannon.
When I am at one of these events, or the Veterans Day event at Myrtle Hill Cemetery in November, I look around and see an aging crowd of people, most of whom have ties to someone who served in one of the branches of the U.S. military.
I specifically call it an aging crowd because that is what it is, which is a crying shame. You just don’t see many 20-somethings.
We’ve often heard World War II veterans referred to as the Greatest Generation. I couldn’t argue with that, but I think I’d put anyone who ever stood in front of a bullet or Howitzer or any other type of artillery weapon as one of the greatest.
I’m not leaving out you guys who served in the Air Force or Navy, either.
When I see 90-year-old men standing at attention, or sitting erect in a wheelchair, as a crowd recites the Pledge of Allegiance or sings the national anthem, it is often hard for me to get through it without getting choked up.
I never had the opportunity to serve. Of course I will admit that I was certainly old enough and didn’t go out of my way to leave college and volunteer to serve in Vietnam. I will also freely admit that I was rather happy when President Nixon ended the draft.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like in the jungles of Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia.
I can’t fathom what soldiers in World War II faced at Normandy. Wave after wave of young American HEROES, storming a beach with German gunfire slamming them right in the face.
I can’t envision myself parachuting in behind the German lines in France.
I am eternally grateful for those who did!
My father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and his ship took fire while in port somewhere in Italy. I don’t remember where. He didn’t talk about it much. I had a couple of uncles who served in the U.S. Army. They didn’t talk much about either.
Both my Uncle Bob and Uncle Windy were known to embellish the truth on occasion, so I can’t say with any kind of journalistic certainty that one story Uncle Windy (he later was a preacher) told was 100% truth, but it had shivers running down my spine about a decade ago.
He said that he was crossing the Rhine River, shouting to others in his unit, when up popped an American soldier who had been playing dead on the bridge. It wasn’t just any American soldier, but his brother, my Uncle Bob, who recognized Windy’s voice.
I realized at that point how close I’d come to never knowing either one of them.
I don’t remember who is credited with saying “War is hell.” I think it might have been General Sherman way back during the Civil War, but truer words have never been spoken.
I can’t help but hearken back to a line in the “Patton” movie with George C. Scott playing the famed American general. I believe it to be an accurate reference to a book written by the German Gen. Edwin “Desert Fox” Rommel.
Patton supposedly told one of his men “I want you to remember that no (blank) ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb (blank) die for his country.”
That’s what happens in war. Somebody dies. Often times it’s lots of somebodies. The use of the atomic bomb twice in Japan killed thousands of innocent people. It was horrific, but it probably saved who knows how many hundreds or thousands of other lives before the war would have ended in some other way.
It’s a good thing the 24-hour news cycle that we have today, not to mention social media, wasn’t around back then. I’m not sure President Truman would have had the gumption to go live on CNN or any other national network to explain his decision to use the A-bomb with all of its collateral trauma.
All of that to say this. To those wannabe heroes who would take a knee during the national anthem, or those soccer players who want to protest during the national anthem, it’s your right to do so. The flag and anthem that you are disrespecting — those who fought and died for your right to do so — deserve so much better than that.
I think you ought to be able to find some other way to protest. Yes, America has its flaws but I don’t see any of you opting to go play your games in Serbia or Morocco or Turkey.
If you want to line up and take a knee, go for it, but don’t expect me to EVER spend so much as a nickel to attend one of your games in the future.
I conclude by mimicking the words used by Georgia Adjutant General Thomas Carden up in Summerville last Saturday. He said something to the effect of words simply can never say “thank you” to those who have served the U.S. military. Words can never say “thank you” to the family of a soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
They gave all of their tomorrows for our today.