May 30, 2011

Soldiers assigned to Bravo Company, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) place American flags in front of fallen veterans grave stones. - Photo by Spc. Devin Kornaus - Courtesy of U.S. Army

Many thoughts are hitting me this morning on Memorial Day.

Yesterday at Church, World War II veteran Joe Higbee and his wife Ev Higbee spoke.  They reminded us of the sacrifices made by those who have served and those who are serving our country.  I was particularly touched when Joe spoke of the young men from our valley, his good friends, who left for war and never came home and how the pain and anguish the mothers of soldiers deal with is equal or even greater to the sacrifice the soldiers make.

I’m good friends with a Montana family who just had one son return from Afghanistan and soon after sent the younger son for a year deployment.  The mother is counting down the days on Facebook.  “Day 2 down, only 363 days to go.”

My dad was in the Air Force, which gave me the opportunity to observe members of the military for much of my life.  I find the saying to be true.  These are the best, brightest, and most honorable people our country has to offer.

I was watching a documentary on World War II that showed how our entire country had to rally around the war effort.  Every able hand was needed to give to the cause, and Americans came through.  I wonder what the world would be like today if it didn’t happen that way.  I wish today we could better rally behind the war cause.  It’s a different time, an all-volunteer military, and a different war.  The casualties are fewer, but they still trickle in almost daily.  The burden is shouldered by a smaller group, but it is still a terribly difficult burden.

The media reports military deaths respectfully but conspicuously, usually at the end of programs like the PBS NewsHour, where in the final moments of the program pictures of the fallen appear on a silent screen.  The Department of Defense is equally quiet and brief, providing news releases for each day’s casualties.

Release No. 438-11, May 24, 2011:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn.

They died May 22 in Baghdad, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

Killed were:

Sgt. 1st Class Clifford E. Beattie, 37, of Medical Lake, Wash., and

Pfc. Ramon Mora Jr., 19, of Ontario, Calif.

Release No. 442-11, May 25, 2011:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of four soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died May 23, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.  They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Kristofferson B. Lorenzo, 33, of Chula Vista, Calif.,

Pfc. William S. Blevins, 21, of Sardinia, Ohio,

Pvt. Andrew M. Krippner, 20, Garland, Texas; and

Pvt. Thomas C. Allers, 23, of Plainwell, Mich.

Release No. 446-11, May 27, 2011

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Chief Warrant Officer Christopher R. Thibodeau, 28, of Chesterland, Ohio, died May 26 in Paktika province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his helicopter crashed during combat operations.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

Release No. 447-11, May 27, 2011

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two airmen who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

The airmen died May 26 in the Shorabak district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Joseph J. Hamski, 28, of Ottumwa, Iowa.  He was assigned to the 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.  For more information, media may contact the 52nd Fighter Wing public affairs office at 011-49-171-331-4921.

Tech. Sgt. Kristoffer M. Solesbee, 32, of Citrus Heights, Calif.  He was assigned to the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

Release No. 448-11, May 28, 2011:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of six soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

They died May 26 of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province, Afghanistan.  They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Killed were:

1st Lt. John M. Runkle, 27, of West Salem, Ohio;

Staff Sgt. Edward D. Mills Jr., 29, of New Castle, Pa.;

Staff Sgt. Ergin V. Osman, 35, of Jacksonville, N.C.;

Sgt. Thomas A. Bohall, 25, of Bel Aire, Kan.;

Sgt. Louie A. Ramos Velazquez, 39, of Camuy, Puerto Rico; and

Spc. Adam J. Patton, 21, of Port Orchard, Wash.

Release No. 450-11, May 29, 2011

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pfc. John C. Johnson, 28, of Phoenix, Ariz., died May 27 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.  He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Release No. 451-11, May 29, 2011

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Spc. Adam S. Hamilton, 22, of Kent, Ohio, died May 28 in Haji Ruf, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.

I look at those ages.  Nineteen.  At that age I was in college, getting ready for a mission, hanging out with my roommates, sleeping through class, and not even having a job.

Twenty-two.  I was getting married, going on a honeymoon, and starting a life with my sweatheart.

Twenty-seven, my age now.  I am spending time with my wife and six-month-old daughter and preparing to buy a home.

I go through daily life and sometimes don’t even remember we’re in a war.  That may be by design by our government and military, but it shouldn’t be that way.  I think we should see the names and faces of every person who has sacrificed their lives for our country.  I think we should remember them as we attend to our daily pursuits.  They died protecting the freedom we have to live as we wish.  We should live in a way that honors their sacrifice.

We should rally behind the effort any way we can – support the families of the fallen, support the wounded (and I would venture to say anyone who has gone to war is, in some way, wounded), and simply remember that we are at war.

Only if we remember can we work, hope and pray for peace and to bring our friends and neighbors home.