Tag Archives: Freedom

Remembering

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, January 10, 1946

We sometimes have a tendency to glamorize war in books and movies. Those who have been there understand it’s much worse than anything that’s been filmed or written. It never captures the brutality or long-lasting consequences.

Last fall I had an opportunity to visit the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. When we were planning a trip to NC/Va, I came across this town and wondered why The D-Day Memorial would be placed in a small farming town of a little over six thousand people in Central Virginia. In 1940, just before World War II, Bedford numbered less than four thousand residents.

During the Battle of D-Day, Company A of the 116th Regiment of the 29th Division, were among the first wave of American soldiers to hit the beaches of Normandy. Nineteen boys from rural Bedford were killed in the first few minutes of landing. Another three boys were killed shortly after. In all, 22 young men from Bedford lost their lives, giving this small community the distinction of having the highest number of casualties, per capita, of anywhere in the country.

           

The story of this town and those that were lost is told in a book titled, The Bedford Boys. In many ways, the town of Bedford died on D-Day. The story of the boys that were lost, how if affected their families and the town itself is a reminder that war, though sometimes necessary, has consequences that can last for generations. It’s a book that should be read by all Americans.

Today is a day we remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and the freedoms we enjoy. Please remember them and their families.

God Bless them all.

It’s the Soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It’s the Soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech

It’s the Soldier, not the politicians,
who ensures our right to LIfe, Liberty,
and the Pursuit of Happiness.

It’s the Soldier who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

We live in the land of the free
Only because of the brave.
God Bless Our Military
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Remember And Honor

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Even though numerous communities had been independently celebrating Memorial Day for years, the federal government declared Waterloo, N.Y. the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo first celebrated the holiday on May 5, 1866.

• Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 for decades, but in 1971, Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May and a federal holiday.

• Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).

• Roughly 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War — making it the deadliest war in American history. About 644,000 Americans have died in all other conflicts combined.

• President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act on Dec. 28, 2000, designating 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day as a National Moment of Remembrance.

• It wasn’t always Memorial Day — it used to be known as Decoration Day.

• Red poppies are known as a symbol of remembrance, and it’s a tradition to wear them to honor those who died in war.

• The crowd that attended the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was about the same size as those that attend today’s observance: about 5,000 people

• Here are the number of casualties in each U.S. war:

Civil War: Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.

World War I: 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.

World War II: 405,399 Americans died.

Korean War: 36,574 Americans died.

Vietnam Conflict: 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.

Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 383 U.S. service members died.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: 4,424 U.S. service members died.

Operation New Dawn: 73 U.S. service members died.

Operation Enduring Freedom: 2,349 U.S. service members died.

Freedom’s Sentinel Casualties – 22 U.S. service members died as of May 2016.

Inherent Resolve Totals – 20 U.S. service members died as of May 2016.

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A Room Of One’s Own

Several years ago I went back to school to take some writing courses and ended up completing my English degree with a minor in creative writing. One of the courses I took during that time was Women’s Prose and I became hooked on reading Virginia Woolf. I loved her voice and stream of consciousness writing but what really hooked me was her strength and how she used the art of writing as her basis of expression and freedom.

Virginia Woolf was one of the foremost modernists writers of the twentieth century, writing at a time when women were typically ignored or dismissed. In one of my favorite books of hers, A Room Of One’s Own, she writes,

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

When Virginia Woolf wrote, simply finding a place to write was difficult; to be taken seriously as a writer was near impossible. Some discriminatory attitudes, as they relate to women, have changed in todays society while some have just become more subtle in the manner in which they are presented.

One of the lines from this book which always stayed with me related to Virginia not being able to visit the library simply because she was a woman. When she was locked out, Woolf wrote, “I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”

To be locked in. The idea and image is suffocating. If you’re locked out you may have the opportunity to turn away and begin again. You can choose another path or find an avenue that may be less constricting or impenetrable but the opportunity to breath remains an available choice. Being locked in removes choices from your life. You become dependent on someone else for the breath of your life; that freedom of expression that helps you find your own room. 

Being locked in continues to be a disturbing way of life for many people. The prison that is created by these thoughts or actions are easy to build and difficult to escape unless you have the strength to survive and the belief of a dream.

So much has changed in the hundred or so years since Virginia Woolf wrote these words.

Unfortunately, too much has remained the same.

 

Please Remember

Memorial Day is many things for many people. There are vacations, a time to relax and enjoy life. There are cookouts and parties and days off from school and work. There’s the beach and the water and having our families with us to celebrate those moments.

But we should always remember that the freedoms and pleasures we enjoy came at a price. For some, Memorial Day has a very different meaning.

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Please remember

Why Veterans Day Matters

Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the American Cemetery in Normandy France. My wife and I were traveling in the area and I wanted to see some of the D-Day landing sites and small villages where the battles took place. Quite honestly, the American Cemetery was not on my list of places to see in France. I don’t know why it wasn’t planned and to this day I don’t know why I decided to pull off the main road and follow the sign down a short road leading to the Cemetery.

I remember it was cloudy as we arrived and light showers had fallen earlier in the day. The Cemetery is built on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel. Having never read much about the Cemetery itself, I really didn’t know what to expect and our view from the parking area gave no indication. But as we turned past a bank of trees and headed in, I began to see white crosses. Just a few at first. It was at that point I remember my pace slowing down. When the entire Cemetery finally came into view I stopped walking. I found myself staring out at 127 acres filled with Crosses and Stars of David for the 9,387 men who are buried there as a result of casualties inflicted on D-Day and ensuing battles.

And then I did something totally unexpected. I cried. As we continued walking, the tears wouldn’t leave me. Not as I read the names on the Crosses, visited The Wall of the Missing inscribed with another 1557 names, or looked out onto Omaha beach below where so many of these men lost their lives. Later, when we stopped in the visitors center, I went over to the guest book, foolishly thinking I could possibly find some words that might express what I was feeling. As I picked up the pen to write, I looked at the last entry, written earlier that day. It simply said, “Grandpa, we finally made it.” I read those five simple words and cried again. The only thing I could think to write was, thank you.

Sixteen years later the images are still very clear; the emotions still very close. I told my wife at the time that if every American had the opportunity to see that place and others like it, Memorial Day might be more than a barbecue, Veterans Day more than a parade, and our respect and gratitude for all those who have ever served this country, might be felt a little more deeply, shown more openly and without reservation.

On Veterans Day, the common phrase is, if you see a Veteran today, please take a moment and thank them for their service to our country. But the truth is, we should do that every time we see one. Because without them and their sacrifice, this world and country would be a very different place. If you don’t believe that, then you haven’t been paying attention.

There are 24 American Cemeteries on foreign soil and one very large one in Our Nation’s Capital, along with many other memorials that honor those who served and died for the freedoms we enjoy. Visit if and when you can. Take your children and answer their questions honestly. Like all of us, they need to understand. Six Flags can wait.

Thank you to all who have served our great country. And a very special thank you to those families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price.

Never forget.