Monday, May 27, 2013

Who's On Your Mind This Weekend?

It's Memorial Day.  A day set aside to honor those who didn't come home. 

But to me, the phrase "those who didn't come home" is too broad for today.  Almost like Stalin's edict that "one death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."  Thus, my question: Who--what specific person--is on your mind as you celebrate Memorial Day?

I've been thinking of three men I never met, just as representatives of the MANY thousands who should be remembered this weekend.  And every weekend.

One is from around here: Lance Corporal Roy Mitchell Wheat, USMC.  LCPL Wheat was from Moselle, MS, which is a small town just a few miles up the road.  A friend from church's Dad was a classmate of his.  A stretch of interstate that runs past Moselle has been named for him, as has the local post office.  If you look at his information below from the Virtual Vietnam Wall, you'll notice a Congressional Medal of Honor.  LCPL Wheat died on August 11, 1967 in Vietnam when he jumped on an antipersonnel mine that had been triggered.  In so doing, he died, but his fellow Marines were spared injury. 

LCPL Wheat's name appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 24E Line 101.

Roy Wheat was 20 years old.

Another man I've been thinking of is Major Carl Wilson Drake, USAF.  Major Drake was originally from Ohio, but was based out of St. Petersburg, FL with the 421ST Tactical Fighter Squadron, 366TH Tactical Fighter Wing, 7TH Air Force.  His younger son was the first guy I met on the University of FL campus when I showed up for registration in the summer of 1977.  Randy & I became fraternity brothers, & hung out a lot during my time in Gainesville.  Major Drake's F4 fighter plane was shot down over Cambodia on June 18, 1970.  His body was not recovered; thus, he is officially KIA/Body Not Recovered.

Major Drake's name appears on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel W9, Line 65.

Carl Drake was 37 years old.  He was born the same year as my Mother.

The third man I've been thinking of is the uncle of one of my dear friends.  The uncle was on Iwo Jima in 1945.  His last radio transmission was one word: "Incoming!"  There were no remains.  Which means he's one of ~94,000 U.S. soldiers & sailors & flyers whose remains were never recovered.

In addition to those two who died when I was a kid and the one who died before I was born, I recently read a good article called "America's Forgotten War".  The article was about World War I, the so-called "war to end all wars."  Just last week, we visited my Granddaddy's gravesite in Selma, AL.  Charlie Madaris was not a combat casualty, but was there in the trenches in that war.

Here's a WW1 statistic for you: 117,000 U.S. soldiers KIA in 19 months.

Enjoy your Memorial Day activities; I am doing that.  But at some point, pause & remember those who didn't make it home from War.  Debate the merits of the various wars America has been involved in all you want.  I do.  Lambaste seemingly clueless political leaders making foreign policy decisions through the years.  I do.

But this ALL of that aside.  Today, honor the memories of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in War.  Today, as General George Patton said, be thankful that such men lived.

Today, voice a prayer for the friends & families, who will never ever truly get over their loved one's death.

It's Memorial Day.  Who's on your mind?

If you are able,
save for them a place
inside of you
and save one backward glance
when you are leaving
for the places they can
no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say
you loved them,
though you may
or may not have always.
Take what they have left
and what they have taught you
with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time
when men decide and feel safe
to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace
those gentle heroes
you left behind.
Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
January 1, 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
On March 24th, 1970, Michael O'Donnell along with crew mates Berman Ganoe, John C. Hosken, Rudy M. Becerra, John Boronski, Gary A. Harned and Jerry L. Pool went Missing In Action. Although remains for all crewmen were not recovered, this crew is now considered accounted for. 

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