Today we call the roll.
Bunker Hill – Antietam – The Boxer Rebellion – San Juan Hill – Chateau Thierry – Monte Casino – Guadalcanal – Midway – Chosin Reservoir – Khe Sanh – An Nasiriyah – Fallujah – Marjah…
Today is the day we honor those who fought to protect this United States — the American veteran.
America has been blessed with a citizenry that has produced some extraordinary Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen, through it’s 235 years: William Travis drawing a line in the sand at the Alamo; Cpl. Alvin York killing and capturing 170 Germans in the Argonne; Sgt. Dan Daly rallying his Marines to charge the German machine guns at Belleau Wood “Come on, do you want to live forever?”; Gen. O.P. Smith from Chosin Reservoir “We’re walking out and we’re bringing our wounded and our dead with us,” and Sgt Robert Banfield, Marine artilleryman at An-Nasiriyah “Hurry up, we’re got Marines dying up there!”
So many citizens; so many reasons for joining up. They join for more reason than a national emergency, although it’s worth noting that most of Harvard’s males enlisted 8 December, 1941, and the recruiting lines were equally filled with farm boys, welders, and shade-tree mechanics.
The Baby Boomer Generation quietly produced its share of veterans, and be they enlisted or draftee; served with distinction: Army Warrant Officer D.H. Brown and Cpt. Carl Burns both served in Vietnam and are now authors while Capt Robert Timberg enlisted in the Marine Corps, fought in Vietnam, and returned to a steller career as a journalist and best-selling author.
High school friends and track team runners Bob Knauff, John Reinschmidt, and Kevin Thomas all liked flying; Thomas retired a Navy Cmdr., while Knauff and Reinschmidt went to the Air Force Academy, with Maj Gen Knauff becoming one of the Air Forces finest pilots of the last generation. Richard Natonski was a history major who joined the Marine Corps and led Marines into both An-Nasiriyah and Fallujah before retiring as a Lieutentant General. BGen John Gronski led the Pennsylvania National Guard into Ramadi — HOOAH Sir, for an ugly job well done.
They were the greatest of their generation, and rose to the occasion demanded of them.
Some make it a family tradition; Army First Sergeant Troy Steward served in Afghanistan, as did his son Jon. Harry Grabowski, Army, fought as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, while his son Col Rickie Grabowski, USMC, served in Haiti and as battalion commander at An Nasiriyah. Rick Anderson was a Navy Seal in Vietnam, although sadly his son Hospitalman Chris “Doc” Anderson was killed in Ramadi.
The freedoms enjoyed by Americans today have not come cheaply: WW1- 116,708 killed; WW2-405,399; Korea-53,686; Vietnam-58,236, Iraq-4,483. Afghanistan-1,704 killed, including such fine men and women as GySgt. Philip Jordan in An Nasiriyah, Sgt. Justin Noyes in Fallujah, Lt. Travis Manion in Fallujah, Maj. Megan McClung in Ramadi, Cpt. Travis Patriquin in Ramadi, and Lcpl. Gavin Brummond in Marjah.
From where does America get such men, author James Michener (Navy) wondered in his book “Bridges at Toko Ri.” Sgt. Noyes was from a little town in Oklahoma, Col. Grabowski grew up in Iowa, while Maj. McClung was raised in California. Service to her country was a family tradition; both of her grandfathers fought in WWII, while her father was a Marine who fought in Vietnam’s Tet Offensive.
While Rosie the Riveter received the publicity during WWII, women wrote their own proud chapter during WWII: After 22 Army nurses were captured by the Japanese when the Army surrendered Corregidor, women rushed to enlist. Sgt. Claire Mendell (later wife of Marine Capt. James Lubin) commanded the unit at Quantico that wrote “The Letter” to the families of the Marines killed in action. 36 women were killed ferrying fighter and bombers to England for the Air Force, and Women Marines and Soldiers have earned Bronze and Silver Stars for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So take a minute to thank a veteran for his or her service. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. And thank you, to all of you who served; it’s you who protected our country.