The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day: Remember Those Who Gave All

Yesterday afternoon, as I was walking little Maddie on our circuitous route through the neighborhood, two other walkers passed by and both smiled and said, "Thank you for your service." I was wearing an old Navy t-shirt which obviously tipped them off that I was a veteran. I returned their smiles and wished them a good day. I know their hearts were in the right place, but I really wanted to tell them that the purpose of Memorial Day is not to honor our veterans -- we have a special day for that in November -- but rather it's a time to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives for our country. I suppose I'm being a bit too narrow in my view here, and should be pleased that others are willing to honor all who served our country, whether in peacetime or in war. But I hate to see the true meaning of Memorial Day watered down, even for the best of intentions.

I lost many close friends, particularly during the war in Vietnam, and Memorial Day always brings their faces and their voices to mind. Forever young, they never had the opportunity to be fathers to their children, to enjoy spoiling their grandchildren, or even to walk their dogs through a Florida retirement community. 

Henry Wright, my Naval Academy classmate and friend, who wanted nothing more than to be a Marine, achieved his goal and then became the first of our classmates to die in Vietnam on February 6, 1968 after just one month in-country. 

Bart Creed, another friend and classmate, was flying a mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail when his Navy A-7 Corsair was shot down. He was likely captured but may have died from injuries suffered during his ejection. To my knowledge, his remains have never been found. 

Classmate Hal Castle, a fellow helo pilot, was assigned to HAL-3, the Navy's helicopter attack squadron in South Vietnam. His helo was shot down by enemy fire on April 28, 1969 resulting in Hal's death, along with two others in the crew. One crewman survived. 

And then I remember, Ron Zinn. Ron was my brother's roommate at West Point (Class of 1962). He was a remarkable young man, a race walker who finished 6th in the 20 km race at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This was the best performance ever by an American walker. During his years at West Point, Ron spent many weekends at our New York home and had to suffer being idolized by his roommate's teen-aged brother. After his Olympic performance Ron returned to Army duty and died in a firefight in South Vietnam on July 7, 1965. My brother, Jeff, died in 2010.
My brother, Jeff, and Ron Zinn on graduation day, 1962
There are so many others, but I can hardly bear writing about these men whose courage is beyond measurement. Rest in Peace.

I've added a photo (below) of the memorial plaque honoring my Naval Academy classmates  who gave their lives while on active duty. The last name, Mike Smith, was another friend who died aboard the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986.
USNA Class of 1967 - Memorial

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