“They carry them in their memory…”
Lara Logan, speaking to/of Staff Sgt. Salvatore Augustine Giunta’s Medal of Honor; 60 Minutes Presents Honoring Our Soldiers, 5/29/11
Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. Service Members who died while in the military service. (Wikipedia).
Memorial Day. A day to “carry them in our memories.” Some died long ago. Others more recently.
And those who survived remember their fallen friends. Some who remember are now old, and feeble — like my wife’s father, who served as a Signalman on a Navy Ship – a ship that was hit by a kamikaze pilot, just feet away from him, near the end of World War II.
The places are many, and varied. From Gettysburg to the Battle of Midway (I wrote about this battle last year on Memorial Day) to the battle in Korengal Valley, near the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Staff. Sgt. Giunta earned his medal. Men died in that “classic L-shaped ambush.” But Giunta did something remarkable, and then… (from Wikipedia):
Giunta learned two days later from Captain Kearney that the captain was going to recommend him for the Medal of Honor. He was uncomfortable about being singled out and labeled a hero. “If I’m a hero, every man that stands around me, every woman in the military, everyone who goes into the unknown is a hero,” he says. “So if you think that’s a hero—as long as you include everyone with me.” Giunta insists that his actions were those of any man in his unit. “In this job, I am only mediocre. I’m average.”
Lara Logan and 60 Minutes presented a thorough and moving report of his work on that fateful day – take a look at the video here.
As always, in the United States, we fought and we fight to keep people free. I think of much that I have seen and read and heard. I especially thought of these:
From The West Wing, President Jed Bartlett, about a few who made it to the United States on a flimsy boat, from Cuba (from the Pilot episode: script here):
With the clothes on their backs,
they came through a storm.
And the ones that didn’t die want a better life.
And they want it here.
Talk about impressive.
From the movie Gettysburg (text of movie speech, based on/taken from historical accounts, here):
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Addresses Maine Soldiers on What We’re Fighting For
This regiment was formed last summer in Maine. There were a thousand of us then. There are less than three hundred of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the union, just as you did.
Some came mainly because were were bored at home – thought this looked like fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die.
This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fighting for pay, for women, or for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.
America should be free ground, all of it. Not divided by a line between slave and free – all the way, from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow, no man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home.
But it’s not the land. There’s always more land.
It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me.
What we’re fighting for, in the end… we’re fighting for each other.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to preach.
From Isabel Wilkerson (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration:
In the end, it could be said that the common denominator for leaving was the desire to be free, like the Declaration of Independence said, free to try out for most any job they pleased, play checkers with whomever they chose, sit where they wished on the streetcar, watch their children walk across a stage for the degree most of them didn’t have the chance to get. They left to pursue some version of happiness, whether they achieved it or not. It was a seemingly simple thing that the majority of Americans could take for granted but that the migrants and their forebears never had a right to in the world they had fled.
For those who died to protect such freedom, “we carry them in our memories.”