Bruce Coulter: Take five to remember those who died for our country
On May 24, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a press release announcing the death of Marine Lance Cpl. Philip P. Clark, 19, of Gainesville, Fla. He died May 18 while supporting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
At the bottom of the same page on its website, on April 25, is announced the death of Staff Sgt. Christopher D. Worrell, 35, of Virginia Beach, Va., who died April 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered during a non-combat-related incident.
There are 35 such announcements sprinkled among other releases noting flag and general officer assignments, the number of reserve and National Guard activations and so forth.
All told, 39 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines lost their lives in little more than 30 days.
Since Dec. 5, 2001, when three Special Forces soldiers were killed by a friendly fire bombing in Afghanistan, 5,453 men and women serving in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom will never know the joy of watching their child take its first steps or waving a tearful farewell on the first day of school.
Less than two weeks after the death of Lance Cpl. Clark, Americans will gather on Memorial Day to remember loved ones who lost their lives while in uniform. They will recall with fondness the laughter of Aunt Elaine or the bad jokes told by Uncle George. With tears in their eyes, they’ll reminisce about Cousin Will, who for a week kept forgetting to bring home his report card – the one with a “D” in English.
My dad served with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division during World War II, and he seldom spoke of the ugliness he witnessed in combat. Rather, he would regale us with anecdotes of the lighter side.
One of his favorite stories was about a pair of master sergeants stationed at Fort Knox after the war who enjoyed having a wee nip, usually to excess, on a frequent basis. After a number of escapades, the men found themselves starting over as privates.
Pop was driving for Gen. Bruce Clarke, who heard of the privates’ situation and decided to correct it. Clarke saw to it the two men were promoted every month until they attained their former ranks and promptly retired them. Clarke didn’t know the soldiers but was determined that a pair of combat veterans would not retire as privates.
Dad passed away 15 years ago, but I think of him often and still recall some of the stories he passed on to his children.
Memorial Day, known originally as Decoration Day, is today solemnized with deals on cars, furniture, electronics and then some. Rather than recall the sacrifices made by men and women, retailers would prefer the public remembers who has the best deal for the unofficial start of the summer.
To that I say, shop if you must. But please, take five minutes of your day to remember veterans no longer with us. You don’t have to know who they were – just know their name – and offer a silent prayer of thanks.
Bruce Coulter is the editor of the Burlington (Mass.) Union and a retired, disabled veteran. He may be reached at 978-371-5775 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.