Friends and family thank me during Memorial Day weekend (I served six years in the Navy.) I have started responding “Thanks, but no thanks!” It probably seems petty, but on Memorial Day we honor those in the Armed Forces who gave their lives for our country, on Veterans Day we honor those serving and who have served.
“What are you doing this memorial Day weekend?”, everyone asks. My son Joshua is in Scouts, so we usually have an event or two to attend so most of our plans revolve around those plans. If you have not decided yet, I would like to offer a suggestion. it is something you can incorporate into a celebration on the day, maybe around the BBQ or the picnic table. Select a person to honor. This might be someone close or a family friend. Do some research and find out what you can online about that person, and then discuss with your family or friends that one person you researched.
This weekend I started with a list online at Congressional Medal of Honor recipients (http://tinyurl.com/ktnstu) The person I picked was SSG Garcia. Take a look at the citation from his award. http://tinyurl.com/lbhjtv2
While an acting squad leader of Company B, 22d Infantry, on 27 November 1944, near Grosshau, Germany, he single-handedly assaulted 2 enemy machinegun emplacements. Attacking prepared positions on a wooded hill, which could be approached only through meager cover, his company was pinned down by intense machinegun fire and subjected to a concentrated artillery and mortar barrage. Although painfully wounded, he refused to be evacuated and on his own initiative crawled forward alone until he reached a position near an enemy emplacement. Hurling grenades, he boldly assaulted the position, destroyed the gun, and with his rifle killed 3 of the enemy who attempted to escape. When he rejoined his company, a second machinegun opened fire and again the intrepid soldier went forward, utterly disregarding his own safety. He stormed the position and destroyed the gun, killed 3 more Germans, and captured 4 prisoners. He fought on with his unit until the objective was taken and only then did he permit himself to be removed for medical care. S/Sgt. (then private) Garcia’s conspicuous heroism, his inspiring, courageous conduct, and his complete disregard for his personal safety wiped out 2 enemy emplacements and enabled his company to advance and secure its objective.
I try to imagine what it was like that day for SSG Macario Garcia. The battle became known as “Hell in the Forest.” The war against Germany was coming to close. It would have been easy I think to play it safe. Below is an excerpt of the battle, read the full account here http://tinyurl.com/nml476f
In a battle many believed mattered little in the big picture, the 22d suffered 2,773 casualties, or 85% of its normal complement of 3,257 soldiers, to take one village and 6,000 yards of forest. Each rifle company went into action averaging 162 soldiers. Seven days later the rifle companies averaged 87. Even this number required 42% replacements. By the end of the battle, losses of the rifle companies reached an estimated 151% of their original strength.
I ask myself the question that everyone else who served has asked themselves, “If it were me, what would I have done?” I am sure that SSG Garcia’s fellow soldiers are glad he was there.
“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” — G.K. Chesterton