Memorial Day 2015
Francis Scott Key wrote the “Star Spangled banner in 1814, listen
to the final verse:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
John 15:12-13 My command is this: Love each other as I have
loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for
There is no higher expression of love then to give up your
very life – to be willing to leave family and friends behind, knowing death is
immanent. To the many brave heroes who have gone before, thank you for your
sacrifice of love.
We are Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast guard
men and women that are brothers and sisters with a common bond, that we will
defend our country. Although we act with rivalry, we would lay down our lives
to protect one another.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day set
aside for remembrance of those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial
Day was first proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan. To honor the
600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers that died during the Civil War. Since
the Civil War, more than 500,000 of our military, both women and men, have lost
their lives in service to America.
These are words to impel us to remember the cost of our
freedom here in America. This is what Memorial Day symbolizes -- a time
Americans take a clear look at both our past and our future. One day each year,
when we acknowledge the debt we owe to those men and women who -- because they
so cherished peace -- chose to serve and defend their country.
Our Military men and women love America, so they spend long
years in foreign lands far from her shores. We revere freedom, so we will
sacrifice their own that we all may be free. We will defend our right to live
as individuals, yet we would yield our individuality in that perhaps most
paradoxically of all, we value life, and so bravely ready ourselves to die in
the service of our country.
The founders of the United States understood that the
military would be key to ensure that our nation remained free.
For more than 239 years our military has provided a bastion
against our enemies. In that time, our world has changed and our armed forces
have changed with it, but the valor, dignity, and courage of the men and women
in uniform remain the same. From Valley Forge, two World wars, a police action
to the war on terrorism, the fighting spirit of our American military is a
major part of the history of our nation.
So, we choose to remember the past because the payment for
forgetfulness is dear -- sacrifice, service, duty ... and many times, injury
and death paid by gallant, heroic men and women.
But, what of the soldiers whose life blood has bought the
liberty of our nation? They are all different, yet share a sameness that is
deeper than the uniform they wear. What is most important -- regardless of
race, creed, color or gender -- We are American!
These courageous men and women, each so different in
heritage and background, shared the common bonds of the armed forces -- duty
and sacrifice. All of them reached a moment in their lives when race and
religion, creed and color made no difference. What remained was the essence of
America -- the fighting spirit of a proud, valorous people. They are American
military who have paid and will continue to pay the price for freedom.
Since the Revolutionary War, more than 42 million men and
women have served in America's military.
As a Soldier, we are taught the Army values; Loyalty, Duty,
Respect, Self-less Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. The short
stories I am about to tell encompasses all of these values.
During the Viet-Nam
war in July 1969; a five man Marine Recon team was on a night patrol. They were
ambushed and came under heavy enemy fire by the NVA in the Khe Sanh valley. The
patrol had 1 KIA and all 4 of the other Marines were wounded. The Recon team
was led by Marine SSG Hunt. Although
being wounded himself he called in artillery support and for emergency
extraction by an army helicopter. He then carried a wounded Marine to safety;
the 3 wounded Marines and the SSG Hunt survived of that attack. He was awarded
the Marine Corp Cross for Gallantry and a Purple Heart for his heroic actions
that day. His name is SGT Major Sam Hunt, Marlene’s brother that served 3 tours
October 1993 an Army helicopter crashed in the middle of a
dense maze of shacks and shanties in Mogadishu, Somalia. A growing number of
enemy troops were closing in on the site where four critically wounded soldiers
were trapped in the wreckage. Master Sergeant Gordon and Sergeant First Class
Shughart volunteered to go to the aid of their fallen comrades. Both were told
that rescue would not be coming immediately. They were subjected to intense
fire from automatic weapons and rocket- propelled grenades, as they fought
their way through the narrow streets to the crash site. They stayed and defended
the down aircrew until their ammunition was exhausted. After Sergeant Shughart
was killed, Master Sergeant Gordon took a rifle from the debris, handed it to
an injured pilot, wished him "Good luck," and continued to fight
until he, himself, was fatally wounded. Both Soldiers received the Medal of
Honor posthumously for their heroic actions.
In Iraq in September 2003, a Medevac helicopter was called
in for an urgent extraction. A soldier riding in a convoy truck turret fell and
fractured his C1 vertebrae. The convoy was under a major power transmission
line. The helicopter had to land 100 yards away. Both crewmen, the flight medic
and crew chief had to leave the safety of the aircraft and walk to the accident
site. There were locals gathering to observe what was going on. The crew has
only light weapons to protect themselves. The crewmen were able to extract the
Soldier and carry him back to the aircraft. The helicopter made a quick flight
to Kuwait city. The Soldier made a full recovery and was able to walk again
thanks to the actions taken by the aircrew on that day. The crewman was myself
and SFC Mark Urquhart. Both Soldiers were awarded the Air Medal for their
actions in SWA.
The Marines and Soldiers in these three stories all have
ties the great state of Maine like many of our veterans that have gone before
As we remember these brave warriors and their comrades in
arms on this Memorial Day, we must look to the future as well as the past. In
today's world, freedom comes cloaked in uncertainty. America still relies on
her sons and daughters to defend her liberty. The cost of independence remains
high, but we are willing to pay it. We do not pay it gladly, but we pay it with
deep reverence and thanks to those who have sacrificed their lives for America.
We know that in the years to come, more brave souls will sacrifice their lives
Tomb of the Unknown
Tomb Guards are handpicked and rigorously trained. The duty
at the Tomb is not for everyone, with the majority of soldiers who begin Tomb
Guard training fails. Tomb Guards describe their service as a privilege and an
honor, and are undeniably proud of their service. They are part of an unbroken
chain of soldiers dating back to 1926.
Tomb Guards are part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment
"The Old Guard". The Old Guard is the oldest active infantry unit in
the military, in service to the U.S. since 1784.
To become a Tomb Guard, an Old Guard soldier must volunteer
by applying for appointment to the Tomb through the Sergeant of the Guard. To
be considered for an appointment, the soldier must be highly motivated and
disciplined, and possess a strong military bearing and soldierly appearance.
Besides the requirement for excellent physical condition,
the soldiers go through a rigorous interview and two-week trial to become a
tomb guard. Members of the tomb guard must have a military record free of
blemishes from such issues as disciplinary problems, drunkenness, drugs or any
kind of negative behavior. Tomb guards are those who have personal drive and
self-discipline. These soldiers maintain high standards, and they must have the
physical stamina for a constant watch at the Tomb, which is guarded 24 hours a
day, 365 days a year, in rain, snow or shine.
While undergoing the two-week trial phase to see if the
individual is a good fit to guard the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, each soldier
must memorize the Arlington National Cemetery history, which consists of seven
pages of information. Guards must be able to repeat all seven pages of history
word-for-word to earn a walk -- a ceremonial ritual involving specific steps
and movements that occur during the changing of the guard. These walks consist
of an hour in the winter and at night and a half-hour in the summer.
Training and Testing
After passing the two-week trial, new guard training starts,
which lasts 6 to 12 months and includes five grueling and progressive tests.
During training, would-be guards learn to maintain their uniforms and weapons
to the unit's standards; they learn the steps, cadence and ceremonial processes
of the guard-change ritual. After passing the tests and reciting 35 pages of
historical information error-free, Tomb Guards receive the least-awarded badge
in U.S. Army history, and the second lowest military badge overall: the Tomb
Guard Identification Badge. If sentinels fail any part of the training, they
are sent back to their company.