I hope you take a moment today to remember what this holiday is for. To me, it is one of the most sacred days of the year, because I have seen what it is about first hand.

Memorial Day is not about automobile races, or cooking hotdogs on the grill, or getting a three day weekend, or the inconvenience of the post office being closed when you want to mail a letter.

It is a day to remember the men and women who have given us the most precious gift of all, our very freedom, and who paid for it with their lives. We forget that too easily in this country. And we need to remember.

arlington graves

We need to remember that all of those headstones decorated with little American flags in all of those cemeteries across this great land of ours represent somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s father. Somebody who put on a uniform for you and for me, and never came home.

Men like my uncle Charles Saxton, my mother’s younger brother. I never knew him, because he was killed in action on August 7, 1943 while serving with the 9th Infantry Division in North Africa. My uncle was just 25 years old when he died.

Men like my high school friend Larry Greene. Larry was an absolute goofball who I could always depend on to get me into trouble with some nonsense or other. He died in 1972 when his helicopter was shot out of the sky over Vietnam.

Men like my buddy Brad Pettit, who slogged through miles of rice paddies and jungle trails with me until we got in a firefight one day and a bullet hit him as he was laying beside me returning fire.

Men like a new kid who stepped on a mine on his very first day in the field with us. I held his hand and looked in his eyes and tried to tell him it was going to be okay, because I couldn’t look at what was left of his body below the waist. I hope I gave him some comfort in his last minutes, but I can still see his eyes as they went blank, and I am haunted to this day because I never knew his name. That is what this day is about.

Please remember that right now, as you are reading this with your morning coffee, or during a commercial break in your favorite television show, somebody’s son or daughter, somebody’s brother or sister, somebody’s husband or wife, is in the enemy’s gunsights. Somewhere today or tomorrow or next week, some mother or father or wife will answer a knock on their door and find solemn men in uniform there to deliver the very worst news of all. That is what this day is about.

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14 Comments on Memorial Day

  1. this is not a bad Nick, but a beautiful thought to remind us of how many men and women past and unfortunately present that gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country, THANK YOU NICK

  2. Jeff savournin says:

    very nicely put, Nick.

  3. Beverly Deem says:

    You nailed it, Nick! My childhood friend is buried in Arlington. He, as co-pilot, and his pilot were fused together when their helicopter crashed into an overhead helicopter and burned as they were leaving an area while performing Medivac duties. I will never forget the phone call. The Viet Nam war became very personal at that time. Thank you for your service! My husband is a Viet Nam vet.

  4. Allie Mars says:

    This wrenches my heart. I remember being a little girl hearing about my cousin Dickie Smith, who never came home from the Vietnam War. I never got a chance to know him because I was so young. But I will always remember his name, and not just on the special days. I wonder how many else will?

  5. “The knock at the door” was the topic of the guest speaker at the Memorial Day services in my home town of Warner NH this morning, Nick, and your post follows that theme. Thank you, Nick.

  6. TIM WHITTLE says:

    I was recently telling my 90 year old father about how I was able to look up my great uncle on the Canadian archives website. He was killed in WWI in Belgium where he was buried in a battlefield cemetery. There was a picture of him in uniform and there was pictures of his burial site and of the family plot with his name on the headstone. Not being familiar with the info on the “www”, my father was quite amazed. He then asked me to look into his best friend, Harry Selsceotis, who was killed in 1944 in Italy. My father had polio as a child and was unable to serve in the military, but his best friend enrolled and went off to war and was never heard of or from again. His family were poor immigrants who lived in a dirt floor shack so there was no ceremony or service upon receiving notification of his death. Harry was simply gone. I was able to find Harry on the Canadian Honour Roll. He fell on 01 Sept 1944 in a battle on the Gothic Line along with 35 others from his Regiment. He was interred in the Montecchio Military Cemetary in Italy. There were no pictures of Harry or his burial plot. I was able to give my father some background info surrounding Harry’s death which I guess gave my father some closure, but I thought to myself how many thousands more fell and were buried and really never given any recognition of their sacrifice. How sad this really is. Just a thought on this Memorial Day.
    Tim Whittle
    Captain (retired)
    RCIC

  7. Barb says:

    What a wonderful tribute to those fallen comrades Nick.. Our son was a member of the Old Guard on Caisson duty during his years in the military. He buried many fallen soldiers during his years there. Sad duty but he was honored.

    Thanks Nick for the (not so Bad Nick) tribute.

    Barb

  8. Karen says:

    Nick, I surely hope you read all of the comments left because perhaps I have the name, for you, of the young man you held while he died in Viet Nam.

    He was a class mate of mine from San Diego. His name was Rim Dungey. He was killed after stepping on a mine on August 26, 1967 in Quang Hgai Province. He was with Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment. It was his first day in the field. He was a wonderful guy and I always treasured his friendship.
    Thank you for your service.
    Karen

  9. Mary Klinger says:

    Great post! Thank you for your service!

  10. Jerry and Suzy LeRoy says:

    Well said, Nick!

  11. Linda Sand says:

    It is a day to be grateful that all my friends and family returned from Viet Nam alive and with all their parts intact. Every day is a day to be grateful for that.

  12. bob tucker says:

    Thank you Nick.

    My wife and I are both veterans , she was an Army nurse and served with the 249th General Hospital in Japan and I was stationed Ireland Army Hospital at Ft.Knox. Sometimes fellows coming back from Vietnam would smile and say, “Your wife says hello”.

    Thank you for your service as well as our brothers and sisters in arms.

    Bob

  13. John D Steel says:

    Thank You Nick, for your service and your comments. As a father of one of those soldiers, I dread his service, but fully understand the need and his desire to serve. The past 13 years and continuing, have had their ups and downs. But we are as proud of his and others service as we can be. God speed, and thanks again.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    NO ONE should ever have to have gone through what you did, Nick. It is no wonder many who did, may have returned but mentally never have been ok since. My hubby served during that time on a submarine. Dangerous duty made worse by crazy captains who went to sea with no backup engines, etc etc etc…but nothing compared to what you and those on land went through.

    My grandma’s favorite sibling is buried in France from WW1. He was a corpsman working in the hospital tent. Highly regarded. All of about 20 years old. We have always wondered what life might have been like had he lived. My grandma had the family letters from him, those that survived inadequate care during the time my dad had hold of them and refused to let us have them, but after he died, my brother saved all he could for us (it was Mom’s family). From Nov. to Feb. I edited and typed off and copied those letters and sent the most to a 2nd cousin who has the family name, and he is sharing them with other cousins, children etc. as well as several photos we had of Gordon and his young wife. I am so glad I finally got them sent off and shared. A true treasure of life as it was then. My grandmother would be so happy I was able to share them. I am glad I was able to fit in doing this in the midst of downsizing.

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