Lowe: Time Out for the True Meaning of Memorial Day

I asked Hearne if I could pen this tribute to my Grandfather and Father, and to your families Military Veterans living and dead on this Memorial Day.
 
This is their story.
 
  Ninety-ive years ago on May 26th, 1917, my Grandfather Charles, a Marine disembarked in France to win the war "over there".  Some 20 days later, he found himself in a charnel house known as Belleau Woods.  Sustaining machine gun wounds in the stomache and mustard gassed, his full measure of devotion, was brief and bloody, although he survived his wounds until after the war.  Descriptions of the battle seem, to me, understated in view of the astonishing casualties.
 
"Overall, the woods were attacked by the Marines a total of six times before they could successfully expel the Germans. They fought off parts of five divisions of Germans, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in close combat."
 
"On his right, the Marines of Major Meyer’s 3/6 Battalion swept into the southern end of Belleau Wood and encountered heavy machine gun fire, sharpshooters and barbed wire. Marines and German infantrymen were soon engaged in heavy hand-to-hand fighting. The casualties sustained on this day were the highest in Marine Corps history to that time.   Some 31 officers and 1,056 men of the Marine brigade were casualties. However, the Marines now had a foothold in Belleau Wood."
 
At Belleau Woods U.S. forces suffered 9,777 casualties, included 1,811 killed.  Many are buried in the nearby Aisne-Marne American Cemetery.
 
  Seventy years ago, on May 26th 1940, my father Leonard was preparing on board the USS New Orleans for the Battle of Midway  (June 6th 1942.).  Previously, Leonard was being processed out of the Navy at Pearl Harbor’s Schofield Barracks on Dec. 7th 1941 and had one more week to serve.  After the Japanese attack, Uncle Sam decided that it just wouldn’t be party without Leo, and he was extended indefinitely. 

My entire family is lucky like that.
 
After surviving the Battles of Coral Sea, Midway and Eastern Solomons Leonard ran up against it at the Battle of Tassafaronga.  A Japanese torpedo took the bow off of the ship and with it, my dad’s best friend along with 200 others.  The New Orleans had to sail backwards at a speed of one knot into Sydney Austrailia for repairs through enemy waters.  No one slept. 

Check out the picture of my dad’s ship.
 
Finishing his service as a Chief Water tender (Snipe) Leonard was in 10 Naval engagements under fire and was mustered out at the end of the war.  He was proud of his service and actually shot down a Japanese Zero when all the guys on the starboard gun mount were killed.  I think he said it was a .50 Cal.
 
My dad didn’t make a big deal about Memorial Day, May 26th was also my brother’s birthday and pop was more interested in the future than the past.  So, we rarely talked about his War Time experience until late in his life.  When we did, he recounted his experiences with a clinical detatchment that seemed to me an effort to protect anyone hearing his story from the real horrors he had seen.  He was descriptive in general, but reserved in detail.
 
Those kids coming home today from Iraq and Afghanistan, processed through Walter Reed, or feet first in a box might feel the same way.

 
In our involvement in foreign wars over the last 100 years we have seen success and failure, but the one constant promised by Churchill still rings true – that it’s blood, tears, toil and sweat .  That crucible borne by those veterans of our freshly remembered past and those young men and women who risk their lives today, should be honored and revered, no matter our political differences and personal preferences.
 
I was hoping, that maybe the kcconfidential community, might take a minute away from the bar b que and parties to share some of their own familial experiences, personal or otherwise in honor of our fallen comrades in arms.
 
God Bless America, God Bless You and Your Families this Memorial Day.

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9 Responses to Lowe: Time Out for the True Meaning of Memorial Day

  1. smartman says:

    The Ultimate Gift is to Give Your Life Your Life For Another
    Nice job Chuck. I had a great uncle that fought with Patton. An uncle that served on the submarine Stingray that fought to liberate the Phillipines. My dad was in during Korea but never saw live fire action due to his typing skills. Most of his photos from that time have him on a sled or skis somewhere in Germany or Switzerland. I have several friends that were in Vietnam that suffer those horrors every day in silence.

    We always hear about The Greatest Generation; sometimes to the exclusion of all others. I think it suffices to say that all who were called to serve or volunteered to serve during peace or war were and are the Greatest of Their Generation.

    Maybe someday the mission of our military will return to killing people and breaking things with impunity and moral superiority and not all this hearts and minds bullshit. War offers no compromise, only victory, surrender or defeat.

    Eternal rest grant to all of our fallen soldiers oh Lord. May your perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen!

  2. bschloz says:

    Good read Chuck. Thanks for posting.

  3. mark smith says:

    a fitting tribute chuck
    my thanks to your father.

  4. Super Dave says:

    Awesome story Chuck.

    And to your dad and grandfather I say thank you for your service to your country.

  5. rkcal says:

    The Greatest Generation
    Thanks for sharing your family’s story. My grandfather, a survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, was much like your father. He wouldn’t talk with me of his experience until late in his life, when I was in college and I asked him (with much trepidation) if I could interview him about his experiences for a history class. He talked openly, with clinical detachment as well- I wonder if that is the only way to discuss such horrors rationally? – about crawling out the listing ship, jumping in the water to survive; the intense heat, and the smell of burning oil and human flesh. He said he spent much of the next few days digging graves. We never discussed his experiences again, but my appreciation for what he endured and sacrificed-what all our men and women sacrifice- was definitely deepened. War is never less than hell.

  6. Orphan of the Road says:

    Decoration Day
    Today is for the dead. But we cannot speak of death unless you speak of life. War is horrible, which is good because otherwise Man might have more of it.

    Chuck, the citizen/soldier goes back forever. They bear the burden and horror while the family tends hearth and home awaiting their return.

    Some never return, others return shattered and for too long the known medical problems and emotional trauma were hidden. The true cost of war is never known on the human side.

    The true debt we owe our veterans can never be payed. All gave some, some gave all.

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    man…..chuck, what a great story….
    ………thanks for sharing it. So meaningful on this or ANY other day.

  8. Brian says:

    In honor of all the veterans on Memorial Day
    Great story, Chuck. One of my grandfathers fought in WW 2 and the other fought in Korea. Both of them chose to be silent about their experiences and I respected that knowing that their time “over there” may have been something they wished to leave in the past. But, I will be forever grateful to them and all the other brave men that go willingly into situations most of us can’t even imagine.

  9. chuck says:

    Thanks Hearne.
    Thanks you guys, for your stories and gracious, heartfelt comments.

    It means a lot.