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Remembering Those Who Never Came Home

During the mid-2000s, I attended my son’s graduation from the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, in a ceremony where the commencement address was given by then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

Like many who attend graduations, I have no recall of what Gates said to the collective students, faculty, and families that day. I do recall that it came at a very difficult time overseas for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The other thing I remember: More than 50 percent of that Virginia Military Institute class stood up to be commissioned into the armed forces of the United States.

As they stood, I could feel myself start to well up. I turned away from my wife so she wouldn’t see, but she knew—and felt the same surge of patriotism I did.

As a veteran myself, I couldn’t have felt prouder of the young men and women, including my son, who were volunteering to serve their country in its time of need, despite the mortal dangers that clearly faced them in the war on terror.

Of course, they were like so many others who had served this great nation before them; who bravely and nobly went in harm’s way to defend our liberty and way of life.

Many would not return to their loved ones or their fellow service members who, truth be told, love them just as much as their kith and kin do.

Next to my desk, I keep a tattered piece of paper with a prayer on it that comes from the Archdioceses for the Military Services that I found at St. Peter’s Church in Washington, D.C. The prayer says it well:

Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands.

Protect them as they protect us.

Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need.

I ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Amen.

Whether you’re spiritual or not, it’s right for this country to take this day to remember those who have fallen, those who have returned, those who are hurting and suffering wounds both visible and invisible, and those who are serving today.

Nor should we forget their families, who have shared their most prized possessions with our armed forces for the good of this country. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” as the poet John Milton noted.

Memorial Day is but a brief moment in time every year when a great country takes pauses to rightfully and reverently thank those both living and dead who have served for their courage and sacrifices on our behalf.

We must never—ever—forget that America is the home of the free because of the brave. (For more from the author of “Remembering Those Who Never Came Home” please click HERE)

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Instead of ‘Happy Memorial Day,’ Let’s Say a Prayer

When I log into Facebook, I see the faces of children who have lost parents in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Three of these Gold Star children are Kristie, Evelyn and Alia Robertson. Their father, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Forrest Robertson, was killed in Afghanistan on Nov. 3, 2013.

“Some days are just hard on them,” Sgt. 1st Class Robertson’s wife, Marcie, recently posted on Facebook. “I don’t think I will ever know how to respond when one of them starts venting and ends in tears saying … ‘and I don’t have a dad.’ It shatters my heart every single time.”

Forrest and Marcie’s daughters, who are 16, 13 and 8, respectively, have already been through more than most of us can imagine. They are part of a new generation of American children shouldering the cruelest burdens of our country’s post-9/11 conflicts.

When I think of the Robertsons, who have suffered enormously, it is impossible to utter an unfortunate phrase that somehow seeped into our national consciousness: “Happy Memorial Day.” As this courageous family’s struggle demonstrates, Memorial Day is not “happy.” It is a time to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.

“It’s pretty hard to believe it’s been three years since I last saw him,” Marcie wrote in February while sharing one of her husband’s last Facebook messages. “I’m not sure it will ever feel real.”

As Marcie told me in the months following Forrest’s passing, the 35-year-old soldier, who was on his fifth deployment, was only a few weeks from coming home to Kansas.

“I couldn’t speak,” Marcie said at the time about receiving the devastating news of her husband’s death in Afghanistan. “I couldn’t form words.”

Three U.S. service members have died so far this year in the country where Forrest was killed, and as the May 3 death of U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) Charles Keating IV reminds us, our troops still face grave danger in Iraq, too. Memorial Day was created during the Civil War to salute departed warriors like them.

As we are taught by an inspiring war widow who is raising three kids, however, Monday doesn’t have to be filled with sadness and tears. Last year, family and friends joined Marcie and her daughters to honor Forrest with a Memorial Day barbeque.

“Thank you is becoming completely inadequate to describe how much I appreciate all that has been done for us,” Marcie wrote. “It is so comforting to know we have so many people in so many places willing to do so much for us.

“People tell me all the time ‘I can’t imagine. I don’t know how you do it,’” she continued. “It is because of all the love and support shown to us (sometimes by complete strangers) that we are still standing.”

Marcie’s poignant words show us that a community’s support can help a Gold Star family persevere. So on Monday, instead of walking around saying “Happy Memorial Day,” what if we all joined together in praying for the Robertsons and thousands of brave families like them?

“The storm that was sent to break you is going to be the storm that God uses to make you,” Marcie, whose strength defines the resilience of our nation’s Gold Star community, recently shared.

When the Robertsons visit Forrest’s place of rest, they see an American flag and a quote from Thomas Payne on the fallen soldier’s majestic headstone.

“I prefer peace but if trouble must come, let it come in my time so my children can live in peace,” the quote reads.

Kristie, Evelyn and Alia Robertson are growing up in a country that their father gave all to defend. They are worthy of his ultimate sacrifice. How we mark Memorial Day – and how we choose to honor the fallen – will help determine whether we are worthy, too. (For more from the author of “Instead of ‘Happy Memorial Day,’ Let’s Say a Prayer” please click HERE)

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Memorial Day Crosses Honoring Fallen Soldiers Removed From Public Property After Complaint

A Memorial Day display featuring crosses to honor fallen soldiers was removed from public property in Georgia after someone questioned whether the soldiers were all Christian.

The 79 white, handmade crosses posted on public property along state Highway 92 in Hiram, Ga., were meant to represent the 79 Paulding County residents who died in America’s wars, according to town officials.

But the crosses were abruptly taken down last Friday after someone called Hiram City Hall questioning whether the cross is an appropriate symbol for the memorial.

Hiram Mayor Teresa Philyaw said the cross display, which she approved and planned, was never intended to be religious . . .

“We wanted to make sure that they weren’t forgotten. We also wanted their families to know that our hearts still bleed for them,” she said. “At the time, it never, ever crossed my mind about the religious factor in it.” (Read more from “Memorial Day Crosses Honoring Fallen Soldiers Removed From Public Property After Complaint” HERE)

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Photo of Eagle on Fort Snelling Gravestone Touches Hearts, Goes Viral

Talk to anyone in my business and they’ll all say the same thing: No matter how long you write stories and put them in the newspaper, you are never really sure which ones are going to strike a nerve.

What you think might be a Pulitzer-quality epic might draw only a nice call from Mom, while a simple tale tossed off on deadline causes an uproar, or an avalanche of praise. One legendary former investigative reporter at this paper wrote scores of stories that changed laws and saved lives, yet never did he get more mail than when he wrote about burying his cat . . .

Photo Credit: Frank Glick

A quick recap: Amateur photographer Frank Glick was on his way to work when he drove through Fort Snelling National Cemetery early one morning. He spotted a bald eagle through the mist, perched on a gravestone, and snapped shots with his aging but ever-present camera . . .

An acquaintance saw the photo and suggested that he see if the deceased soldier had any living relatives who might want it. Indeed, Maurice Ruch’s widow was alive and well and delighted to receive a copy of the eagle watching over her beloved husband . . .

Mail and calls from Minnesota, then Chicago, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina and finally, Afghanistan. The picture and story had gone viral. I noticed 11,000 people had recommended it on Facebook. I forwarded scores and scores of requests for reprints to Glick. Unfortunately, he had become ill and has been in the hospital off and on since the column ran. Mail piled up. (Read more from “Photo of Eagle on Fort Snelling Gravestone Touches Hearts, Goes Viral” HERE)

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Continue the Remembrance this Week: Every Day Is Memorial Day [+videos]

It’s tough for those of us who live as civilians to truly appreciate the degree of sacrifice borne by those who wear the uniform.

As we’ve witnessed from several tragedies this year, our troops are putting their lives on the line in dangerous theaters around the globe and on training missions here at home as well. The greatest nation on earth has remained free and has prevented evil from filling the global power vacuum for years because of just a small percentage of brave Americans who sign up to defend our interests.

Coming off the heels of commemorating the sacrifices of our soldiers this Memorial Day, it is incumbent upon our civilian political leadership to think long and hard about foreign policy and how best to craft policies that will ensure the lives of our troops are not needlessly put at risk. At its core, this means when the U.S. goes to war and our troops are sent into harm’s way, it is done factoring in the best interests of our troops.

George Patton was famous for saying, “The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.” This salty Patton adage could be just as relevant today as an admonition to the civilian political class not to let political correctness, poor planning, lack of strategic goals and defined outcomes, and tepid rules of engagement needlessly kill or maim our troops.

Reasonable people can disagree over the prudence of a particular military engagement, but once our troops are sent into battle, the first priority must always be to achieve the mission with as little loss of life to U.S. soldiers, not to the other side – not even to innocent civilians. If the cause is just and the engagement deemed necessary, responsibility for civilian casualties lies at the feet of the enemy. If our political class is too squeamish about collateral damage and is intent on gratuitously risking the lives of our troops, they should not go to war in the first place.

This is a sacred goal and commitment all American leaders used to understand. We paid a heavy price for the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944, with nearly 2,500 American fatalities. But thanks to meticulous planning, a clearly defined mission, and a no holds barred desire to achieve that mission, a continent was freed and the world was saved just one year later. This was all done despite bad luck, dismal weather, and mechanical failures that plagued the assault at Omaha Beach – and all without the enormous technological advantage the U.S. military enjoys today over its contemporary enemies.

To this day, families of WWII veterans can stand on the hallowed ground of Omaha Beach and solemnly reflect with pride on the enormous ground taken and preserved in the fight to protect our national interests and those of all humanity.

Sadly, things have only gone downhill since WWII. We no longer fight wars with clearly defined missions under leaders who have the ability to articulate a common sense outcome to the public. Our soldiers are thrust into nearly impossible situations and tangled webs of Islamic civil wars without a strategic plan to win. And most absurdly, political motivations that lead to politically correct warfare have all too often superseded the priority of achieving the mission with the least number of casualties.

Despite the failures of our civilian leadership to define our national interests and articulate a winning strategy, we have soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan – in places like Fallujah and Ramadi – with just as much gallantry as our grandparents did at places like Omaha Beach. With over 6,700 fatalities and tens of thousands wounded, many of who are incapacitated for life with debilitating injuries or suffer from PTSD, what can the civilian leadership show these families to justify their sacrifice? Where is the ground held or gained in pursuit of U.S. national interests?

Some political leaders are wrought to say that this is the price we must pay for defending liberty in this era given the nature and logistics of the enemy. They are wrong. This is not the price we must pay; this is unacceptable. The political leadership can do better prioritizing strategic interests and defining the mission of our troops to execute unencumbered from political warfare. They must do better. They owe it to the brave soldiers in uniform.

Certainly, there is much blame appropriately ascribed to the current president for capriciously ceding the gains our military made in central and western Iraq. But much of Iraq and the sacrifice of our troops had gone toward the Iranian hegemony long before Obama took office. Iran was allowed to literally rip apart our troops with the nastiest explosive devices and they have never paid a price for it – again – even before Obama became president, other than to win control and influence over large swaths of the country.

It’s no wonder that morale in the military has sunk so low.

But rather than heap pessimism on the past, aspiring presidential candidates need to chart a course towards refocusing the core mission of the military on identifiable and tangible national interests.

If our soldiers are willing to pay the ultimate price for our freedoms, the least we can do is ensure that as few of our brave men and women are killed in action as possible, and that if they ultimately give their lives for this great nation, their sacrifice is not countermanded by the shortsightedness of those who send them into battle.

(See “Every Day Is Memorial Day”, originally posted HERE)

Listen to an earlier interview with this author on The Joe Miller Show:

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I’m a Veteran, and I Hate Happy Memorial Day, Here’s Why

I have friends buried in a small corner of a rolling green field just down the road from the Pentagon. They’re permanently assigned to Section 60. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it’s 14 acres in the southeast corner of Arlington National Cemetery that serves as a burial ground for many military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are fresh graves there.

I spent my formative years in combat boots and all of my friends are in the military, were in the military, or married into the military. I have several friends buried at Arlington, and know of dozens more men and women interred in that hallowed ground . . .

I toyed with the idea of making the trip south from New York City this weekend to spend some time, reflect and sit quietly but decided against it. Some friend, huh?

I’m angry. I’ve come to realize people think Happy Memorial Day is the official start of summer. It’s grilled meat, super-duper discounts, a day (or two) off work, beer, potato salad and porches draped in bunting.

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‘Are You Kidding Me?’ Rage Reigns as Obama Does This in Happy Memorial Day Tweet

The Democratic National Committee dedicated Memorial Day, a day set aside to honor America’s fallen service men and women, by tweeting a photo of President Obama enjoying an ice cream cone.

Ice cream? Really? Is that what he thinks Memorial Day is all about?

Photo Credit: Twitter

The Twitterverse exploded in disbelief — “are you kidding me?” was the tone — beginning with CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper, who tweeted:

Respectfully, @TheDemocrats, this is not what Memorial Day Weekend is about. https://twitter.com/thedemocrats/status/601820580678082561 …

[email protected]

(Read more from “‘Are You Kidding Me?’ Rage Reigns as Obama Does This in Happy Memorial Day Tweet” HERE)

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Miller: We Don’t Know the Dignity of Their Births; We Know the Nobility of Their Deaths (+video)

This Memorial Day we remember the over one million Americans who laid down their lives in military service to our country. To borrow a phrase from General Douglas MacArthur: we don’t know the dignity of their births, but we know the nobility of their deaths. They died serving in a cause greater than themselves, so that our country, dedicated to securing the peoples’ God-given rights, could move forward towards its high calling.

For all the times America has fallen short over its lifetime of nearly two-and-a-half centuries, none can deny the hope and the opportunity and the freedom this nation has brought forth not only on our shores, but to tens of millions of people around the world. We are blessed to live in such a land; it truly has been a “Shining City on a Hill. “

In a few weeks, we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day, which was one of the many decisive moments when Americans made the ultimate sacrifice to advance the cause of freedom. In Normandy, the United States and its allies fought to rescue an enslaved Europe from a maniacal dictator hell-bent on dominating the planet and eliminating an entire race of people. The scale of the operation was vast, involving over 5000 ships, 175,000 soldiers, and 10,000 aircraft.

General Dwight Eisenhower stated the mission clearly to his soldiers, sailors, and airmen soon to be engaged in Operation Overlord:

The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

In a nationwide radio broadcast that evening, President Franklin Roosevelt asked all Americans to join him in prayer for those in the battle:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith….Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom…Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Thousands gave their lives on Normandy’s shores on June 6th, 1944 and by the time the World War II was over, 400,000 Americans would never be returning home.

While thankfully in our time we have not had to endure that staggering loss of life, none-the-less thousands of homes this day will be missing the smile and the embrace of a father or mother, son or daughter, brother or sister who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As Ronald Reagan so eloquently stated on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day regarding the great heroes who fought for this country, “Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their valor, and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.”

This beautiful song performed by the West Point Glee Club is a fitting tribute to those whom we have loved and lost in war:

Ronald Reagan’s Boys of Pointe Du Hoc Speech on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1984:

Remembering What Matters on Memorial Day

Photo Credit: eddiecoyoteOn Memorial Day, all Americans should think about the sacrifices made by military service members, their spouses, and their children. Instead, many Americans spend it as a day off of work, having a barbeque or watching baseball games. American Thinker asked some former and current members of the military to consider what Memorial Day means to them.

Many military families talk about the importance of the day but do not reflect on the actual meaning of this holiday. As Sam, a military spouse noted, “there are a lot of Gold Star Families in our neighborhood. In seeing that, my children are reminded each and every day that their mom might not come back from Afghanistan. I don’t want the children focusing on the sadness and the specifics of that day.”

A military mom, Lieutenant Colonel Laura Dawson, an Army orthopedic surgeon, currently stationed in Afghanistan, dedicates this holiday to all “the young people who we have lost in this operation as well as the other wars. These are not just young people, but are some of the very best and brightest in America. They willingly go in harm’s way to protect this country, their families, and their fellow soldiers. These are driven young men and women who no doubt would have been successful in our society as civilians: people of strong moral fiber, hardworking, and overall good people who would have continued to contribute to the greatness of this nation after their days of military service were completed. From a medical provider/surgeon perspective, it’s gut-wrenching to see these young people die or become disfigured. It’s crushing to know you could not save them. For me, Memorial Day is dedicated to honor their ultimate sacrifice and reflect on how great a price we have paid with the loss of these incredible young people.”

Jack Jacobs, a retired Army colonel and a Medal of Honor recipient for his actions during the Vietnam War, believes that for a lot of veterans, each and every day is Memorial Day. He was upset that Fleet Week, an outreach to the American people, was canceled because of the budgetary constraints.

Read more from this story HERE.

America’s Oldest Veteran to Spend Quiet Memorial Day at Texas Home

Photo Credit: APFor his 107th Memorial Day, Richard Arvine Overton, who saw many of his fellow soldiers fall in the line of duty in World War II and even more die over the following decades, is planning a quiet day at the Texas home he built after returning home from World War II.

He wouldn’t want it any other way.

Overton, who is believed to be the nation’s oldest veteran, told FoxNews.com he’ll likely spend the day on the porch of his East Austin home with a cigar nestled in his right hand, perhaps with a cup of whiskey-stiffened coffee nearby.

“I don’t know, some people might do something for me, but I’ll be glad just to sit down and rest,” the Army veteran said during a phone interview. “I’m no young man no more.”

Overton, who was born on May, 11, 1906, in Texas’ Bastrop County, has gotten used to being the center of attention of late. In addition to being formally recognized by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell on May 9, Overton traveled to Washington, D.C., on May 17 as part of Honor Flight, a nonprofit group that transports veterans free of charge to memorials dedicated to their service. Despite serving in the South Pacific from 1942 through 1945, including stops in Hawaii, Guam, Palau and Iwo Jima to name a few, it was Overton’s first time in the nation’s capital.

Read more from this story HERE.