Monday, May 30, 2011

Stand And Salute

My father in law, who passed away a few weeks ago, was one of the many young men who marched off to defend freedom and American honor during World War II.

If you saw HBO's epic miniseries, The Pacific, you saw Bill, Sr.'s war. From the opening sequences where you see the amphibious landing craft launch from the ships as the Japanese are shelling from their fortified bunkers dug into the coral rock on the specks of islands strung out across the entire Pacific theater all the way to the bitter end.

The names ought to still terrify anyone who has read even the tiniest amount of history:  Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Pelileu, Okinawa, Guadalcanal.

My father in law fought his way, bloody battle to bloody battle, across every flyspeck of an island...and survived.

So did my grandfather, my great uncles, and just about every man I ever knew from that generation growing up here in West Virginia.  I can still recall listening to a great uncle of mine talking with my dad -- about two shots of Wild Turkey too many one evening -- about floating on an oil barrel after his destroyer had been sunk, and watching his shipmates get picked off one by one by sharks.  And the wracking sobs that came out of this man as he remembered the horror of those days adrift at sea -- this strong, loving man who had never talked about that day before or since within my hearing, and wouldn't have then but for the fact that I sneaked in under the tablecloth to listen without them noticing.

My father in law got recalled into the military after college, drafted back in from the ready reserve and shipped out to Korea, where he again fought through the worst imaginable -- this time at the Chosin Reservoir.

We lost this brave, kind soul this year.  And we are losing so many others as well as the Greatest Generation fades into history.  Let us pause today and say thank you, and salute them for their sacrifices...because we cannot possibly ever fully say thank you for everything they have done for all of us.

This Memorial Day, let us all stand and salute.  Because, as our family has learned all too well in the last few years, you have to take that chance whenever you can, because time marches forward and leaves you without another opportunity all too soon...

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