Memorial Day Thoughts

Lewis Clark

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Last month, I visited The Netherlands as part of a river cruise and had two experiences while visiting the city of Nijmegen that made me very emotional.

The first was a visit to the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, which contains the graves of many soldiers who died in that area during World War II. The guide said that every grave site has been adopted by a local family. On special holidays, the families put out luminaries and display photos of the individuals buried in the graves. I was impressed and amazed that this practice continues nearly 80 years after the end of the war.

The second experience was even more emotional for me. Operation Market Garden was an unsuccessful World War II battle in which the Allies attempted to capture bridges over several rivers. Part of the story was told in the movie “A Bridge Too Far.” During the operation, 48 Allied soldiers were killed while trying to cross the Waal River near Nijmegen.

A new road bridge was built over the river in 2013, close to the path taken by the soldiers crossing the river. The bridge design includes a special set of 48 pairs of street lights. Every night at sunset these lights are lit in sequence at a slow marching pace in remembrance of those 48 soldiers. Every night, a Veteran of the Day walks across the bridge at the same pace as the lights being lit. At the end, the Veteran of the Day walks down a set of steps and salutes a memorial. A local veterans group ensures that a veteran is there every night and they have done this every night for almost ten years as of today. Any veteran from any country may volunteer to serve as Veteran of the Day, and anyone may walk along with the Veteran of the Day.


Unfortunately, our ship schedule would not allow us to participate that night. Several passengers in addition to myself would have eagerly done so.

Memorial Day is supposed to be a remembrance in honor of our military personnel who died while serving their country. I still get a lump in my throat every time I think of the Nijmegen Sunset March and an occasional tear comes to my eye. As a veteran, thank you to all of those who remember.
 
As a Viet Nam veteran it is a somber day remembering those who never made it home. I've attended a number of Memorial Day services at the National Cemetery here in Chattanooga. It is an emotional event and I have never left after the ceremony with a dry eye.
 
Memorial Day means a lot to me and my friends and we spend some of that day together at a local event.

Me -1964 - 1968 - US Air Force - Senior Missileman (Mace A, overseas active),, Minuteman II & III (US)

My Dad - US Navy, minesweeper operations in the South Pacific (1943- 1945)

My friends in that picture (<<<<<), US Army (combat) - Vietnam (helicopter pilot, infantry).
 
The first time I visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, I was overcome with emotion. I've been back easily a dozen times since and I still get the lump in the throat and feel the tears coming to my eyes. A lot of brave men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom over the years. I wish more people thought of Memorial Day as a sacred remembrance rather than just a "day off from w*rk."
 
I'm also a Vietnam vet and feel the same. My dad was badly wounded in WW II in Europe and his brother was killed in action. Also had a cousin killed in Vietnam.

One of the most emotional settings I know of is in the town of Ieper in Belgium (also known by its French name, Ypres).
There is a memorial at the edge of town to the 50,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed there during WW I and whose bodies were never recovered. The remarkable thing is that they still hold a memorial ceremony there every evening, because the local people are so grateful to have been liberated from the German occupation.
Menin Gate
 
I am so very humbled and grateful for their ultimate sacrifice.
 
I'm also a Vietnam vet and feel the same. My dad was badly wounded in WW II in Europe and his brother was killed in action. Also had a cousin killed in Vietnam.

One of the most emotional settings I know of is in the town of Ieper in Belgium (also known by its French name, Ypres).
There is a memorial at the edge of town to the 50,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed there during WW I and whose bodies were never recovered. The remarkable thing is that they still hold a memorial ceremony there every evening, because the local people are so grateful to have been liberated from the German occupation.
Menin Gate
We spent 2 weeks with family in Ypres a few years ago and visited several war graves and memorials including the Menin Gate ceremony. The war museum there is also extremely moving.

Many years ago I was flying home to Baton Rouge on a Friday afternoon from a business trip and found myself sitting next to a WWII US marine veteran from the European arena heading off to a reunion the following day. He had no plans that evening so I arranged for my wife and I to pick him up from his hotel and take him out to dinner to personally thank him for his part in rescuing our country from tyranny. He was a great guy and we had a good evening. My wife and I were born 10 years after that war but our parents lived through it as children/teenagers, and being an industrial port they endured many bombing raids hiding in their shelters in the back gardens.

The debt we owe to those who have given their lives fighting for the freedom of all of us is enormous.
 
Every year, I remember my brothers and sisters in arms who did not return home.



They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

From "For the Fallen" by Laurence Binyon 1914
 
Screenshot 2024-05-24 071752.png
 
While I'm actually grateful for those who have served and those who are now serving, it amazes me that we still can fill the ranks these days.
 
My uncle’s memorial service program. I shed a small tear for him every Memorial Day
 

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US Army 67-70 interesting places, times. Then 13 years Reserve.
Had to remind a local publication to never use the preface "Happy" with Memoprial Day.
 
I still find it just incredible what the WW II soldiers went through. The blue line in the map below shows my father's campaign, October 1942 to November 1943. He was with Patton's 3rd Infantry and they fought their way all across North Africa, up through Sicily, and into Italy. He only made it to about Naples before taking a German machine gun bullet to his leg and then sent home. How they managed boggles the mind.
WW II route.jpg
 
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Just returned this week and while in Germany, I was surprised how I felt walking the roads and exact places my grandfather was stationed ~80 years ago. Glad my aunt is a genealogy buff with great details. Cool experience.
 

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Interesting. My dad also "toured" North Africa and then Sicily and Italy before finishing up the war in central Europe. He had "some" stories. :) He was sort of lucky. He was never injured and he drove a half track for much of the war.

I still find it just incredible what the WW II soldiers went through. The blue line in the map below shows my father's campaign, October 1942 to November 1943. He was with Patton's 3rd Infantry and they fought their way all across North Africa, up through Sicily, and into Italy. He only made it to about Naples before taking a German machine gun bullet to his leg and then sent home. How they managed boggles the mind.
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DW's uncle flew 35 missions in the 8th AAF - first out of North Africa and then out of Italy. He had an interesting collection of pieces of flack that had torn through his aircraft. He found one big piece under his seat where he sat in the top turret of a B-24. His crew was one of the lucky ones who never lost a man during combat. Thank God for our brave air crews during WWII (and now, for that matter.)
 
I now find it strange to hear people say "Happy Memorial Day!" or "Have a Great Memorial Day Weekend!" I think of the weekend as a time of somber, thankful reflection on those who lost their lives in service.

Almost exactly a year ago, a week before Memorial Day 2023, DW and I were in Normandy at the American Cemetery. That is a time I continue to reflect on.
 
Gal's Dad went to Britain early on as a tail gunner doing bombing runs over Germany. Got shot down and spent the next 25 months in German prison camps. Suspect it changed the man. Makes my time floating around in SE Asia from 1/69 to 12/72 on an old WW2 can and a nuke cruiser feel pretty darn cushy. My thoughts on those who gave their all.
 
Dad was a navigator/bombardier on a B-25 in the Aleutians. I had a lot of emotions on my recent ride on a B-25. This was after watching "Masters of the Air" and now I'm reading the book.
They were all heroes!
 
Thank You All that have served us for our freedom and the privilege to be living in the USA.

Thank You, Thank You. I will be taking part in the Memorial Doings in our small town on Monday.
 
FIL was an "old man" when he joined the Army at 25! He was trained as a tank driver to be deployed to the European theater. But his late entry into the war meant that he drove amphibs in the Pacific theater instead. He had a ton of scary stories to tell. One of the scariest stories he told was of the first landing he had to participate in. Amphibs were loaded with GIs and as each was loaded, it joined a circling group behind the troop ship. The idea was to load everyone and then attack as a group. Unfortunately, this being their first "rodeo," it took longer than usual and some of the early amphibs began to run out of fuel. Amphibs in high seas sink when they run out of fuel because their sump pumps fail. They lost a lot of guys that way and learned a lot about how to set up for a run to the beaches. They learned the hard way. FIL was lucky to be in the later groups to be deployed. He eventually did spend several months in Hawaii in hospital. That's one of the reasons DW was so excited to visit the Islands some 30 years later.
 
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