American soldiers stepped up when they have been asked to step up, gone where they have been asked to go, and yes... sacrificed when they have been asked to sacrifice. As a history teacher, I encourage students to understand the love of God, country, and duty that defines our servicemen.
A recent trip to Washington D.C. took us to the Iwo Jima Memorial. There stood a group of ancient warriors. Some with hearing aids, most with canes, but all of them with the same burning spirit of service and love for this country.
The Vietnam Wall, told the story of the 10,000 day war...few though know the personal stories on each soldier who was sent there, or the slow trickle of names and bodies that returned from that far off land earned a spot on that wall. It was nice to see that families, friends, students, teachers, and strangers commemorated the lives of those men.
The Korea War Memorial was much the same. The Forgotten War. An appropriate name, a few blurbs in the history books and a monument is about all people know about this one of course unless you watch re-runs of M.A.S.H., and that is only the Hollywood version of the truth.
For students, the World World War II Memorial was the favorite. "What are all those stars for Mr. Davis?" "Each star represents 100 soldiers who died in this war. Right around 4,160 stars there." "You mean 416,000 American died?" "Yep" Thank God, Grandpa Davis wasn't one of them. With a wife and four children at home, he left the hills of West Virginia and joined the U.S. Army. He carved his name into the mountain side...maybe as a lament to his family...maybe just a way to leave his mark on this earth if he didn't come back. Thank God he did! As a boy Grandpa held me on his lap and told me stories as he chewed on the Redman Tobacco chaw. "I was in Okinawa" he said. I'm glad he returned. If he didn't there wouldn't be an Aunt Belinda or Aunt Patty.
I would tell you about the World War I Memorial, but there isn't one. I imagine there isn't enough political clout left for their generation. It's too bad too, because this war marked the emergence of the United States as a world power. I think at last count there are three or four survivors of WW I left. As a boy, Mr. Ed Oliver from Maple Heights, Ohio would tell me stories about his experience in the United States Navy. Later, there was a man in Walton Hills named Komodic who was rumored to have been in a German U-Boat during WWI. His strange tattoos seemed to tell a story all of their own.
Arlington National Cemetery, was the high point of the D.C. trip. Row upon row of white headstones. Some from the Civil War, and every war fought since. One student asked "Why does the U.S. Army guard a Tomb of the (with) Unknowns in it?" There was no simple reply to this one..." Those bones...whatever is left of them, represents every soldier who died and whose bodies were never recovered. Not only did those soldiers lose their life, but they also lost their identity. Since there was no family to claim these bodies, the United States Army said they would be the extended family of these servicemen." Maybe just maybe it could be Great-Grandpa Bradley's brother (Bert Bradley). He went to war and never came back.
In our visit to Arlington, it was duly noted that there were servicemen from places like Fallujah, Iraq and the foothills of the Himalayas, in Afghanistan. That's where Major Steve Reich died. He was a member of the 160th Special Operations Ariel Regiment or (S.O.A.R). The last time I saw Stephen Reich was when I was going into 8th grade. I guess that would put him in 6th. He was the kind of kid who loved reading books. Military type stuff especially. That kid could have gone to any school in the country...a left handed pitcher...with a state championship under his belt said it all. He chose West Point. Steve is still the all-time strikeout leader on record. Did a stint in the minor leagues with the Orioles organization, but followed his heart as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the kind of kid who could have eventually become Senator or President. He definitely would have been better than the only other President born in Connecticut!
I guess if I were to remember Steve...I would think back to the days of out boyhood. A baseball glove...that's what I would think of when I remember Steve... Thank you Steve, and every other veteran who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Little Boy Blue
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.