Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Day Late, But...

Yesterday, as I was driving around to different work sites, I heard exactly ONE mention of D-Day- from Rush, of course.

What a sad commentary on us as Americans that a day of such significance in our history passed with almost no notice.

What happens in a war, and the emotions it leaves with those that survive, is something I will never know. I can't, I haven't been there. But to pay homage to those that do, I would like to share a speech that a friend of mine, a Navy corpsman who served in Viet Nam and was awarded the Silver Star, gave for our latest Armed Forces Day Dinner.

Have you ever been to Arlington? Have you ever been to the Marine Corps War Memorial?

It represents the most famous battle photograph ever taken: the Rasising of the American Flag on Mt. Surabachi, Iwo Jima.

During that 36 day battle to take that island, a Marine fell to Japajnese fire every two minutes...every two minutes for 36 days, a Marine was killed or wounded in action. It is the only battle in the history of the Marine Corps where Marines suffered more casualties than the enemy. In 36 days, 6,981 Marines were killed in action; 19,217 were wounded.

The Memorial in Washington, created in a bronze and granite sculpture, depicts five Marines and a Navy Hospital Corpsman raising our American Flag. Three Marines didn't survive the battle, one Marine died shortly after, and the Corpsman and one Marine survived. Engraved in the polished black granite, in gold, is the inscription: "Uncommon Valor Was A Common Virtue."

If you visit the Memorial, or take the time to look at the picture again, take a close look at Corpsman John Bradley. As he is stretching out to raise the Flag, you'll recognize hime; he is the only one without a canteen in his canteen pouch.

Felix De Weldon, the sculptor of the Marine Memorial, asked John Bradley what had happened to his canteen. In the heat of battle, he told de Weldon, he simply couldn't remember.

Let me talk for a moment this evening, about an intangible, that sometimes goes beyond bravery and beyond sacrifice...I am talking about selflessness!

You see, Doc Bradley was selfless that day, remembers his platoon, told de Weldon. Bradley had given his canteen of water to a wounded Marine, as he struggled to climb Surabachi that day. He would go without water for the next 28 hours on Iwo Jima.

John Bradley was selfless that day. Men in combat never speak of glory or medals, instead we speak of, "Who can be trusted, who can be counted on, and who will come for me, when I am wouded in the field of battle, and if I die, who will carry my memory?"

The following day, on seeing a wounded Marine lying in the field of battle, Bradley ran through a mortar barrage and heavy machine gun fire to reach the wounded Marine. Shielding the wounded Marine with his body, he administered plasma and pulled the casulaty 30 yards to safety. Bradley was shot in both legs.

It was not for sense of self that he went out after that Marine; it was for others! John Bradley was awarded the Navy Cross for his selflessness that day.

Today we celebrate Armed Forces Day! Today we celebrate each and every one of you, for your service to this, our country.

Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard.

My friends, what sets you aoart as an American is your selflessness! Your willingness to take the time to dedicate yourselves to Military Service for our country and the defense of it!

You are all Selfless, you are the fabric of our patriotism, you are our Veterans! You are America!

So if you ever visit the Marine Corps Memorial or look at a picture of it, you will see him. He is very simply, the one without the canteen...

Your invitation tonight has stirred those restless memories, which always remain so close to the surface of my mind. I can't even pretend to understand these forces that hold us veterans together across these years.

Yet I understand these forces are as fierce as a blood bond, and as enduring as kinship.

You see, I know why men who have been to War yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories, not to laugh or weep on one another's knee. Comrades gather, because they long to be with men who once acted their

best...

Men who suffered and sacrificed together, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.

We did not pick each other, did we...we were delivered by Fate and our services. But I know them in a way I know no other men!
I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, and the memory of me! It was the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for each other! Our comradeship is the province of legend and myth...! You see, I knew the bargain that day!

As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day, and I am sure, that when I leave this world, my last thoughts wil be of my family and my comrades. They were such good men.

William Shakespeare said it this way in Henry the 5th, Act 4, Scene 3:

"We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers...
For he today that sheds his blood with me...
Shall always be my Brother...!"


Thank you so much for having me this evening! God bless and portect all our Airman, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen, on the line today, and those who have gone before!

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