On the Regarding War blog, soldiers, veterans, and journalists will share their stories from Afghanistan, Iraq and other war zones. It will feature personal stories and opinions from those who have first-hand knowledge of past and current conflicts. Those at home directly affected by a family member serving in the military will also contribute. The blog is meant to be a place where ideas are exchanged and experiences are related in an effort to gain a better understanding of the realities and effects of war. Share your thoughts, raise a question, and join the conversation by leaving comments on the posts.
Today we call the roll:
Bunker Hill. Antietam. The Boxer Rebellion. San Juan Hill. Chateau Thierry. Monte Cassino. Guadalcanal. Battle of the Coral Sea. Chosin Reservoir. Khe Sanh. An Nasiriyah. Fallujah. Marjah...
Today is the day to honor those men and women who helped found and protect the United States — the American Veteran.
America has been blessed with a citizenry that has produced some extraordinary Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen through its history. Crispus Attucks at Bunker Hill. William Travis drawing a line in the sand at the Alamo. Cpl. Alvin York killing and capturing 170 Germans in the Argonne. Sgt. Dan Daly rallying his Marines to charge the German machine guns at Belleau Wood, "Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" Gen. O.P. Smith from Chosin Reservoir, "We're walking out, and we're bringing our wounded and our dead with us." Sgt. Robert Banfield, Marine Artilleryman at An-Nasiriyah, "Hurry up! We've got Marines dying up there!"
"I enlisted. I was drafted. I served in the Guard." 1st Lt. Bob Timberg, Marines, fought in Vietnam, as did the Army's Warrant Officer D.H. Brown and Capt. Carl Burns. Frank Farrell flew B-17's over Germany for the Army Air Corps, while Charles Richardson served as a Navy corpsman in the Pacific Theatre during WWII. Brig. Gen. John Gronski led the Pennsylvania Guard in Ramadi — HOOAH, Sir, for an ugly job well done.
Some make it a family tradition. Army 1st Sgt. Troy Steward and his son, Jon Aisel, both served in Afghanistan. Harry Grabowski served as an Army helo pilot in Vietnam, and his son, Col. Rickie Grabowski, USMC, serves still, in Haiti and as a battalion commander at An Nasiriyah. Rick Anderson was Special Forces in Vietnam, although, sadly, his son, Hospitalman Chris "Doc" Anderson was killed in Ramadi.
The freedoms enjoyed by Americans today have not come easily. Spanish-American War: 2,446 killed. WWI: 116,708 killed. WWII: 405,399 killed. Korea: 53,686 killed. Vietnam: 58,236 killed. Iraq: 4,427 killed. Afghanistan: 1,375 killed, including such fine men and women as Gunnery Sgt. Philip Jordan, An Nasiriyah; Sgt. Justin Noyes, Fallujah; Maj. Megan McClung, Ramadi; Capt. Travis Patriquin, Ramadi; and Lance Cpl. Gavin Brummond, Marjah.
So many citizens, so many reasons for joining up. It's not just a question of national emergency, although most of Harvard's males enlisted on December 8, 1941. Master Sgt. Gloria Clark, Air Force, was stationed at Lakenheath. Jim Dolbow did a stint in the Coast Guard. High school friends and track team members Bob Knauff, John Reinschmidt and Kevin Thomas all liked flying; Thomas retired a Navy Cmdr. while Reinschmidt and Knauff went to the Air Force Academy, with Maj. Gen. Robert Knauff becoming one of the Air Force's finest pilots of the last generation.
From where does America get such men, author James Michener once wondered. Noyes came from a little town in Oklahoma, Grabowski from Iowa, while Clark came out of Michigan. Iwo Jima flag raiser Sgt. Mike Strank came from Pittsburgh by way of Czechoslovakia, while his fellow flag raiser, Pvt. Ira Hayes, came off an Arizona Indian reservation, as did the Marines' famed Navajo Code Talkers. The Army's famed Nisei Battalion, the most heavily decorated — and wounded — of WWII, was of Japanese ancestry, and it's worth noting that 56,000 immigrants have become citizens since 9/11 while deployed.
While Rosie the Riveter received the publicity during WWII, women in the military wrote their own chapters beginning in 1942. After 22 Army nurses were captured by the Japanese when the Army surrendered at Corregidor, women rushed to enlist. Sgt. Clare Mendell (later wife of Marine Capt. James Lubin) commanded the women's unit at Quantico that wrote "The Letter" to the families of the KIA Marines. During the war, 36 women were killed ferrying planes for the Air Force from the United States to England. Women Marines and soldiers have earned Bronze and Silver Stars while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America's Women Warriors have received their fair share of Purple Hearts, with McClung the first female Naval Academy grad killed in Iraq.
So take a minute today to thank a veteran for his or her service. Talk to one in an airport. While it's a lovely gesture by Applebee's and Outback Steakhouse to offer meals to vets today, instead why not walk into a recruiting station, introduce yourself, and shake some hands. Let them know you appreciate what they do for you, before they deploy and it's too late.
Thank you, all who serve or have served; it's you who protects America.
Embedded journalist, author, and father of a Marine
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