This is a difficult piece to write, I admit that wholeheartedly. Writing about the true meaning of this most revered national holiday – Memorial Day – is not easy. I am not writing about backyard BBQs, playing Frisbee, water skiing or just another day off from work. I’m writing about the fallen men and women who have died in the line of duty while serving in our military services since the inception of this great Republic.
It is an emotional holiday for many of us when we take a moment to pause and contemplate the sacrifices that these outstanding men and women and their families have given for our liberty. It is utterly and completely humbling – as it should be. People, our friends, neighbors and total strangers have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives – so that we, as individuals and as a nation, may live free.
Think about it, on this special day, many of us take time to remember those fellow citizens who died while choosing to be servant leaders in their roles as members of the greatest military force the world had ever known. For many of those who have not been touched by the grief of having a loved one killed in action this day may not have the same deep personal feeling as experienced by a young wife and mother who will spend the entire day grieving next to a stark white head stone.
Taking the time to stroll through one of our beautiful national cemeteries and reading the engraved granite grave markers provides clarity as to the sheer number of service members killed in action over the course of our nation’s history. Simple inscriptions on those headstones tell the story of not only our nation but of the diversity of those who gave it all.
When we take time today to remember the fallen, it is easy to reflect on the wars and conflicts that occurred in years gone by like World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Civil War, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan and others. Sometimes we forget about the smaller engagements and the most recent undeclared conflicts and wars. We forget that even as I write this column and as you read it, there are men and women in uniform who are presently in Harm’s Way.
Just within the last several months, as we citizens, lay sleeping in our warm and comfortable beds, safe and sound in our homes here in the homeland, 10 patriots have fallen on the battlefields of our time. Ten more men and women from each of the four services have joined those who have died in combat so that we may live.
U.S. Navy Special Warfare Operator First Class Charles Keating IV, 31, a highly decorated SEAL who had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan was killed in action by an ISIS Sniper while rescuing his fellow U.S. Navy Seals in the small northern Iraqi town of Teleskof. He was part of a SEAL Quick Reaction Force (QRF) who responded to a call for help from fellow SEALs who had come under attack by the barbarian ISIS fighters. How ironic is his death in that it occurred in this small town known for its Christian heritage dating back to the 11thcentury and whose citizens speak Aramaic – the same language of Jesus. He died fighting against those who would seek to annihilate all Christians worldwide.
U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 27, was killed on March 19, 2016 during a rocket attack waged by ISIS on a little known firebase that he was stationed at in northern Iraq. He and several hundred other Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit had recently established the outpost known as Firebase Bell in support of the fight against ISIS. Staff Sergeant Cardin was hit by mortar fire while rallying fellow Marines to a nearby bunker.
U.S. Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed in October 2015 while recuing hostages being held by ISIS fighters in a prison in northeast Iraq. He was a highly decorated Delta Force Operator and the first service member to be killed in action since the U.S. re-engaged in Iraq against ISIL.
Then there was the Staff Sgt. Matthew Q McClintock who was killed in action by small arms fire in Helmand Province in Afghanistan on January 5th, 2016. He was a Special Forces soldier assigned to the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Buckley, WA.
Lastly, on December 21, 2015, Major Adrianna Vorderbruggen, Staff Sergeant Michael A Cinco, Staff Sergeant Peter W. Taub, Staff Sergeant Chester J. McBride, Staff Sergeant Louis M. Bonacasa all of whom were members of the U.S. Air Force and Technical Sergeant Joseph G. Lemm, from the U. S. Air National Guard were killed by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle near Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan.
This Memorial Day, today, yes please enjoy the day with your family and friends. Love them and enjoy the fact that you are able to partake in this national holiday. But, I ask you to take some time to remember all of our service men and women who have been killed in action in defense of this country. I plead with you to seriously consider what it takes to be an American fighting man or woman; the type of person who voluntarily enters into military service where a probable outcome of that service is the laying down one’s own life in defense of our exceptionally great nation. While you do so, give a prayer and be thankful to live in the United States of America.
As the Charlie Section Assistant Crew Leader for USCG Sector Upper Mississippi Reserve Boat Forces, I shared this post with my crew this Memorial Day as my team worked and conducted underway operations in tbis AOR. A great bunch of Guardians who serve thier country and the service with honor, integrity and devotion to duty.
As I said at the onset of this piece it is difficult to write much less read out loud. I attempted to read this piece to my team over daybreak coffee at the boat house but failed. My voice crackling and the explosion of emotion in my chest. BMC Niedick continued for me. Those who know me, know that I take issues of patriotism, God and country very seriously and with uncontrolled emotion.
I make no apologies to anyone for that!
God Bless America and may God Bless and Rest in Peace those patriots and warriors who have layed down thier lives for you, me and our great country.
Viper One Six – Out
“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyways” John Wayne