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Those Who Have and Are Serving Still

November 11th, 2010

“Oh, what a glorious morning is this!”  

Samuel Adams to John Hancock, April 19th, 1775 – On hearing gunfire at Lexington

Veterans Day 2010

Samuel Adams and John Hancock were en route to Philadelphia as delegates to the Continental Congress and were staying in Lexington at Hancock’s aunts home.  The story is that Paul Revere rode to the house sometime after midnight to warn the two Patriots that British troops were on the way to arrest them and send them to London to be tried for treason.

Men standing guard outside of the home warned Revere that he was making too much noise, and that the two delegates were sleeping.  Revere is said to have replied, “There’ll be noise soon enough! The Regulars are coming!”

Hours later, John Hancock and Samuel Adams watched from a distance when the ”shot heard ’round the world” rang out on Lexington Green as Massachusetts Minute Men and British troops exchanged fire in the start of the Revolution.

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So many other mornings, and sunsets through the generations… and those who have served their nation far from home.   

My brother, and many others, are serving still in the Middle East and all around the world. 

Morning Far From Home

Worth reading in USA Today:  “WWII vets still deserve our attention”

“These veterans are leaving us. Now in their 80s and 90s, they are dying at the rate of 797 a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  I urge families to seek out these veterans.  Thank them for their service. Ask them questions.  Let your children listen.”

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From a personal view…

In 1996, I was stationed overseas in Japan,  deployed on board the now decommissioned USS Independence, and flying the F/A-18.  Living and flying in Japan was a wonderful experience, and I had the opportunity to review much of our WWII history in the Pacific. 

I will never forget the times our squadron flew to the remote island of Iwo Jima, the site of the famous flag-raising on top of Mount Suribachi.  We flew there to practice landings for a few days before actually flying off the aircraft carrier.   We  would fly to Iwo Jima, rotating aircraft every few days, totaling a week or two with the air wing, and living in a small dormitory. 

That tiny island, less than 6 miles in length, and marked by the single prominent volcano was the site of some of the fiercest combat, and most challenging combat efforts of the war in the Pacific.  In all, over 6500 Americans were killed on Iwo Jima, and around 18,000 wounded, most of them Marines.   Around 22,000 Japanese soldiers died in the fighting as well.

When I was visiting, so many years from the scene of that carnage,  many of us would try to explore the island firsthand with few more than a dozen of us there at one time.  I can hardly describe what it felt like to wander off alone on that island, walking through the underbrush and seeing pieces of equipment left forgotten since the war’s end.  A truck tire here, a piece of rusted metal there… And even walking by caves which lay undisturbed for more than a half-century, and said from stories to be filled with remnants of such things as ammunition or eating utensils, or more.  I wouldn’t find out, and was unwilling to walk beyond the sunlight and trespass across thresholds of death.  It was both moving and unsettling.

I woke up early one morning as the sun rose and walked the very beaches where the landings were made some 52 years before.  I walked alone,  into the surf and climbed the steep slope of sand…   they were tiny smooth black pebbles that made your feet  slip with nearly every step, falling to one’s hands and knees to make any progress up the slope of the beach.

There I was in 1997, alone on a piece of beach on a tiny island in the Pacific, trying to scramble up a hill of slippery sand.  In the distance loomed Suribachi, and my heart pounded as I imagined young American soldiers 52 years earlier, weighed down by heavy equipment, trying to scramble up the very same beach- while being shot at from every direction.  I could only imagine what courage it took, and what determination to even keep moving.  I could only imagine that every one of those valiant men knew inside that they had every chance of dying on that island, far from home and family, and many did.

Later I spent a late evening on top of Mount Suribachi with several friends.   Like military folk do, we brought some beer along and each of us quietly surveyed the island from on high as the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon.  It was our way to toast in remembrance to those who were there before, and those who never went home.  

I spent many other days flying over that tiny island. Each time I practiced landings in my small fighter jet I would gaze in heartfelt amazement that so many had fought and died over a foothold on such a tiny piece of land…

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November 10th marks the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps…




7 Responses to “Those Who Have and Are Serving Still”

  1. Jamieon 11 Nov 2010 at 6:57 am

    I want to thank all veterans for the love of their country you are why we have what we have today we are nothing without you.

  2. R. Shermanon 11 Nov 2010 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for your service. I’m sure my dad, whose hand was in the Hornet would be pleased.

    Cheers.

  3. Edon 11 Nov 2010 at 10:33 am

    An excellent tribute to Marines and Veteran’s Day.

  4. Vincenton 11 Nov 2010 at 2:00 pm

    On this side it’s the day the guns ceased at 11o’clock November 11, 1918 ending the ‘war to end all wars’.

    My best to your brother.

  5. annieon 13 Nov 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Beautifully written; I enjoyed this very much. Thank you.

  6. Toys 123 Blogon 15 Nov 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Uss Independence Aircraft Carrier…

    [...] ed down by heavy equipment, trying to scramble up the very same beach- while bei [...]…

  7. Katieon 11 Jan 2011 at 8:04 am

    Thank you for this reminder, Beau. My dad served in the Marines during the Korean War. It is thanks to him that I was adopted from Korea and enjoy the life I do now in the U.S. His oldest brother trained at Fort Ord near where I live and enjoy nature’s beauty, another uncle died too early from cancer, likely from Agent Orange used in Vietnam, and having been raised in the Navy town of Lemoore, CA, several of my school classmates have died since the early 1990′s while following in their military fathers’ footsteps of being pilots. I offer heartfelt gratitude to those people who dedicated their lives to preserve my way of living, aka freedom. Despite all that, I don’t think guns and bombs are the answer to peace or a future world community.

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