The other day I got to talking to a friend of mine. He’s 94 years old now. Jim is a veteran of World War II. He served with the 1st Marine division. While talking to him I realized, once again, how much we owe to his and my Dad’s generation. I realized how many of our honored warriors we are losing to old age. They were a band of brothers just like my generation’s Vietnam generation.
Jim served and fought at the fierce battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, from the end of July, 1942 until they were relieved on December 9, 1942. He was only 21, a machine gunner. He is loathe to speak of those days. Each marine’s lives were on the line, each day during that horrific battle with the Japanese. As part of Vice Admiral Fletcher’s task force and as part of General Vandergrit’s command, he along with his other brother’s in arms fought with true grit and by their heroic efforts they won the fight. The division won one of it’s 3 presidential citations for gallantry. Of his division, 650 men were killed, 1278 men were wounded and 8580 were struck down with malaria with 31 MIA. After the long and grueling battle he and his fellow marines were sent to Australia for rest and refurbishment when they were finally relieved. He along with the others saw unspeakable things as all combat veterans see. We thank Jim and his fellow marines for their sacrifice some of whom gave the ultimate sacrifice, their lives.
Today, this holiday has become more about barbecues and having fun, but let us not forget what we should really be remembering. For some it is the aftermath of battle that is hard. My Mom always spoke wistfully of the airmen she met at Coronado, California, who never came back. She spoke of how handsome they were and how she enjoyed dancing with them. She spoke of how young they were and how much life they had to live.
Let us remember, this weekend, the families and the loved ones of those who serve our country. There are too many crosses. There are too many who have come back home scarred by their experiences, scars that we can not see. Give a veteran a hug or shake their hands and just thank them.