I am posting about the meaning of the U.S. Veteran Memorial Day Holiday. Hopefully I can do the holiday service and bring you a look that may be different than other “about memorial day” posts. This is a post about honor, courage, and commitment. It is also a story for those who had no idea what they were getting into before their lives expired.
Stop worrying about what you will wear today, what you will grill today, and how you and the children will get into water. That is all good but, that isn’t what the holiday is about. Just because something is a holiday, doesn’t mean that it isn’t somber. We are talking ABOUT DEAD SOLDIERS.
They fought for us and died FOR US. I am writing today with quite a bit of emotion that the printed text can do no justice, so understand that there is a lot of emotion behind todays words.
At 17 years old, Tommy joined the Army National Guard. He wasn’t technically in yet. He was in a status where you are pledged to pledge. When he turned 18, he signed those papers that many of us veterans understand so well, and he took an oath to support and defend the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic. He meant every single word of the oath. Even if he had NEVER seen combat, he is already among the brave men and women that CHOSE to protect us and our freedoms at great cost. If there was an order, he would follow it, no matter what it meant to him personally, because he understood that his life was a SACRIFICE. If that were the end of the story, you should have so much respect for Tommy that you should salute him and move out of his way as he walks down the sidewalk. You should applaud his service.
But that is not the end of the story. At 18, Tommy went to boot camp, where he drilled, exercised, and learned to march. At the end, his group had cool war scenarios that tested what he had learned, his tenacity, and his physical strength. He passed because he was one tough guy, as they all were.
Boy was he proud! His parents were too. He came home for a week and visited, where everyone hugged him, clapped for him, and wanted to know “what the Army is like.” Then he went to School for a few months where he learned a trade that is useful, visited home again after for about a week, and was sent to his platoon.
Almost immediately after he joined the platoon, they were given orders to go to Iraq. He was not excited about this, but he went because it was his orders and that’s what he signed and took an oath for. He did a very good job and quickly gained rank (pay and positional authority). He was given a new job. Since he was one of the best shots, he was the Gunner for their Lieutenant’s Humvee.
Don’t quit on me now. Keep reading. This story is true, even if the names have been changed.
One day they were traveling, and Staff Sargent Gomez was driving. They were the second Humvee in the lineup. Everything was fine, until the first Humvee was hit by an Explosively Formed Penetrator(EFP) that shot a malleable copper charge into the cab which does ALOT of damage inside, very similar to what most people think of an IED.
The medic ran over to #1 and then #2 was hit where Gomez, Tommy, and the Lieutenant were. The EFP went through the driver side window and hit Gomez in the throat, ripped half of it out, and exploded in the cab. The percussion broke Tommy’s arm and injured his spine.
Then the medic ran over to #2 Humvee and another EFP went off. The EFP shot in the spot of the vehicle where it had to penetrate two layers of armor, somehow it turned 180 degrees, exited two layers of armor, and hit the medic! The medic died on the spot.
Tommy survived the encounter and has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and this was not the only explosion he had been in. If you thought this was his story, you are wrong. This story is in all their honor, but it is about the medic, and Gomez, and many others.
Gomez did not die on the spot. He suffered and died later. Tommy knew the medic as well. They were all partners in the same platoon. These people were his friends and he had to watch them die. He had to watch Gomez’s neck splatter through the Humvee. But he is alive and they are dead. THEY paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Tommy lost 8 close friends while he was in. He lost one to friendly fire, and one even committed suicide because the stress of combat. He lost the other six friends to explosives. 8 PEOPLE DEAD for YOUR freedom! Their parents all lost their most prized child and has to decorate their graves every birthday, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Etc.
So while you are enjoying your barbecue, camping, and family, remember that you are doing this as a MEMORY to the fallen and MIA (missing in action), and not just because it is another joyful holiday. The holiday used to be observed on May 30th every year, but in 1968 was moved to the last Monday of the month, so everyone can have a three day weekend. Many groups want the weekend gone, because it has just become another family holiday.
I don’t want to change it back, I just want you to remember why you have the holiday. To cherish the lives of those veterans that live, and remember and celebrate the lives of those that don’t.
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