So here we are on Memorial Day Weekend and we have service men and women in harms way once again.
These are special people. I would say they are wired differently to the rest of us, but the evidence just doesn't back that up. Take Flight 93 on nine eleven as a perfect example. Or the soldiers, sailors and airmen of World War II. It is in us all. We just need to find it.
The picture on the right is of my friend and national hero, Master Sergeant of Marines, William "Spanky" Gibson, who is the first ever member of any branch of our military who returned to a combat zone having had an above the knee amputation.
It is a picture of Spanky saluting a flag at Camp Fellujah in Iraq. He chose to honor me and that specific flag is hanging proudly on the wall of my home today.
Thank you Spanky. Not for the flag, but for what you have done for us all.
Last night I was talking to a client for about an hour. A huge part of that conversation was about her 87-year-old grandpa who served aboard the USS Arizona. He was on that ship the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His brother is STILL aboard that ship as he perished there when the boat went down.
She told me that whenever they visit, her Grandpa walks onto the Memorial and Salutes and says to his brother: "I will always love you. I will never forget the sacrifice you made for all of our freedom." It gives me goosebumps just hearing about it. I believe that all Americans should visit the Arizona Memorial at least once in their lifetime. Until you have been there (I have twice), you simply cannot understand what I'm talking about. The picture below is of the USS Arizona sinking in 1941.
These people understand with every fiber of their being what defending freedom means. A freedom that so many of us take for granted. A freedom that simply wouldn't exist without the ultimate sacrifice these people make in our country's name. In our name.
The following is an excerpt from "A Foxhole's View". Written by an ordinary soldier in the middle of World War Two.
The man who wrote it received
* 1 Silver Star
* 2 Bronze Stars
* offered Purple Heart, turned it down because he thought it was bad luck
The time: December, 1944 - a few days before The Battle of the Bulge. The place: The Hurtgen Forest
I had gone down about four houses when I saw, at the convergence of the "L", a German tank supported by a platoon of infantry. This was the counter-attack. We hadn't gotten any anti-tank guns into the town as yet. There were only two bazooka gunners with our attack...and where could they be?
Being caught out in the open all alone, I panicked. I tore through the back yard fences, trying to get to the others and warn them. If the tank reached the corner of the "L", we would be trapped.
But a heavy machine-gun squad had already set up and started firing. He was no match for the tank, but if he could scare or kill the supporting infantry, the tank would be more vulnerable.
It looked like a hopeless situation. The tank slammed an 88 into the **machine-gunner's legs, but in a super-human effort, he continued to fire at the tank and the infantry. The infantry finally retreated and the tank pulled off of the attack. The machine-gunner - Ralph Neppel -was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
As I ran along I passed an unmanned German tank. Had it been in action during our crossing of the field, it would have been devastating. I also noticed a row of craters, the largest I ever saw during the war. They must have come from our bombers. Although they had missed the houses, I thought how they must have rattled the windows! One of the houses would have easily fit into one of these huge craters.
About twenty minutes later the town had been captured and we had taken numerous prisoners. Company L, which had been in reserve, had taken almost as many casualties as we did because of tree-top bursts from the German artillery.
The rest of the day was spent in setting up mortars and defenses. That afternoon, one of our tanks was placed at the other end of town where the German tank had appeared earlier. A German tank somewhere off to the left spotted our tank as it parked. It opened fire and knocked out our tank before it could get off a shot.
That night, Johnson, from our platoon, lay on a table in the light of a flickering candle. He had taken a piece of shrapnel in the back. I had expected that to happen sooner or later because I had noticed his reflexes weren't too good. Johnson was doing a lot of moaning and groaning which indicated he was out of his head. We couldn't get him out or get a medic to him until morning. Lt. Benjamin lost patience with him and told him to shut up, but to no avail. That next evening we heard that Johnson had died. This made *Lt. Benjamin feel guilty for not knowing how badly Johnson was wounded. And a few days later, Lt Benjamin was killed in action.
We all know where we would be without our servicemen and women. I have a nephew who served in Afghanistan. We all know people who have fought for our freedom or are doing so right now. It is beyond my comprehension that with all the money currently being spent by the Administration, military spending cuts are the only serious cuts they are talking about. So on this weekend we must remember our service men and women. We must thank them and we must consciously know where we would be without them.
Every one of them gave something - some gave everything.
So do me a favor - if you are traveling through an airport or a port this weekend or you just see a man or woman in uniform in a restaurant. Please go and shake their hand and thank them for their service. And while you're at it, pick up their tab too.
(Copyright © 2009 By Simon L Conway All Rights Reserved.)
Simon Conway is the winner of the FIVE STAR Best in Client Satisfaction for Real Estate Agents in the Orlando area.