I come from a legacy of men who have served. I don’t take that lightly this Memorial Day. My grandfathers were both in World War II. My father was in the Army towards the end of the Vietnam Conflict. One of my brother’s is currently a Marine Corps pilot of a CH-53 deployed in Afghanistan. His wife, along with the rest of us, eagerly await his return.
I want to share a little about my grandfathers.
My dad’s dad was a metallurgical engineer and served in the Army. During the war, he got to do two really incredible things, in my humble opinion. The first was to travel to Russia to study their tanks. The second was to be one of the first men to work in the Pentagon – when it was just a line! Only the first wing had been built at that point. He retired a Lt. Col.
My mom’s dad was a Morse Code operator for the Army. When I was in high school, his unit’s exploits were declassified. What he did was amazing. His unit was responsible for diverting Nazi attention from the D-Day invasion.
They used cardboard tanks and mis-information to cause Germany to believe the invasion would be at another location. I remember my granddad, in one of the few times he shared with me about the war, telling me how his unit would sew different patches on their uniforms every night. The hope was that Nazi Germany would believe they were a force much bigger than they were.
Their efforts worked. As D-Day dawned, a significant portion of the German force was diverted away from Normandy. My granddad, however, was transferred at the last-minute to Omaha Beach. He was one of the heroes that broke the German hold that day and turned the tide of the war.
More recently, a fellow Kentucky Marine distinguished himself in Afghanistan and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. His acts of bravery have characterized our fighting men and women for generations. Here is the Medal of Honor citation of Sergeant Dakota Meyer.
Citation: Corporal Meyer maintained security at a patrol rally point while other members of his team moved on foot with two platoons of Afghan National Army and Border Police into the village of Ganjgal for a pre-dawn meeting with village elders. Moving into the village, the patrol was ambushed by more than 50 enemy fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and machine guns from houses and fortified positions on the slopes above. Hearing over the radio that four U.S. team members were cut off, Corporal Meyer seized the initiative. With a fellow Marine driving, Corporal Meyer took the exposed gunner’s position in a gun-truck as they drove down the steeply terraced terrain in a daring attempt to disrupt the enemy attack and locate the trapped U.S. team. Disregarding intense enemy fire now concentrated on their lone vehicle, Corporal Meyer killed a number of enemy fighters with the mounted machine guns and his rifle, some at near point-blank range, as he and his driver made three solo trips into the ambush area. During the first two trips, he and his driver evacuated two dozen Afghan soldiers, many of whom were wounded. When one machine gun became inoperable, he directed a return to the rally point to switch to another gun-truck for a third trip into the ambush area where his accurate fire directly supported the remaining U.S. personnel and Afghan soldiers fighting their way out of the ambush. Despite a shrapnel wound to his arm, Corporal Meyer made two more trips into the ambush area in a third gun-truck accompanied by four other Afghan vehicles to recover more wounded Afghan soldiers and search for the missing U.S. team members. Still under heavy enemy fire, he dismounted the vehicle on the fifth trip and moved on foot to locate and recover the bodies of his team members. Corporal Meyer’s daring initiative and bold fighting spirit throughout the 6-hour battle significantly disrupted the enemy’s attack and inspired the members of the combined force to fight on. His unwavering courage and steadfast devotion to his U.S. and Afghan comrades in the face of almost certain death reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Fortunately, my grandfathers and Sergeant Meyer lived. Many others throughout the years have not. These fearless men and women laid down their lives for our way of life. Their sacrifices allow me to live a life of safety and freedom. They allow me to worship without fear. They allow me to work hard and provide for my family. They allow me to spend a Sunday afternoon, as I did yesterday, playing basketball with my boys in the driveway.
I am indebted to all those who have served, and so are you. So on this memorial day, spend some time counting your blessings. Then go find someone who has or is serving and hug their neck. We act like the honor of serving is thanks enough, but we really appreciate it.