Memorial Day 2020

Memorial Day
May 25, 2020

Photo by John Beniston (Palmiped), licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license


Memorial Day is a federal holiday for honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday is now observed on the last Monday of May, while previously observed on May 30th from 1868 to 1970.

Memorial Day is for honoring the fallen. Veterans Day, observed on November 11th, honors those who have served in the United States Armed Forces and correlates with Remembrance Day worldwide. Armed Forces Day, an unofficial holiday observed on the third Saturday in May, honors those currently serving in the armed forces.


Among the various parades, services, and the annual wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetary, Memorial Day is commemorated with the poem In Flanders Fields. It was written during the First World War by Canadian physician Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres.


In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.



Memorial Day 2011

“In Flanders Fields”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, Canadian Army (1872-1918)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

History of “In Flanders Fields” via Arlington Cemetery

“Poppies in the Sunset on Lake Geneva” by Eric Hill, under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license via Wikipedia

The Time to Celebrate Is Not This One

On May 1, 2011, President Barack Obama reported that al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was officially dead. Rumors suggest that SEAL Team Six was the end of the line for the man who planned and orchestrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the defeated attack on Washington, DC. The President suggests that this is a turning point in the nearly decade long global war on terror that is no longer called the Global War on Terror, and that this event is long-awaited justice for those innocents killed in what has become known as this generation’s Pearl Harbor moment.

So why don’t I feel like celebrating?

Read More »

Day of Infamy

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”    —President Franklin D. Roosevelt

May the 2,402 American military, 57 American civilian, and 64 Japanese military casualties rest in peace.

Quote of the Day

On the heels of the unsurprising Supreme Court’s decision not to strike down Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), Kenny (@Geekyfanboy on Twitter) made this simple statement:

I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t understand why a country wouldn’t defend those who sacrifice everything to protect it and its people.

By the way, I’ll just leave this related gem here as well:


Thank a Veteran Today

From Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, published on November 8, 2010:

On Nov. 11 each year, the United States formally honors the service and sacrifice of more than 20 million living American veterans through their service, as well as all the men and women who have guaranteed our freedom and kept America secure against those who would harm us throughout the years.

Our veterans represent the best of America. Coming from every background and every walk of life, they represent the rich tapestry of our nation and the multitude of cultures that make the United States unique upon the earth.

On Veterans Day, we have an opportunity to thank them, to thank every Marine, Sailor, Soldier, Airman and Coast Guardsmen who has ever worn the uniform for what they have done, and to thank those of you still in uniform for what you continue to do for the United States every day.

Thank you for your service, Godspeed.

Major hostilities of World War I — “The War To End All Wars” — ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November in 1918.  One year later, President Woodrow Wilson declared the day a holiday named Armistice Day.

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with lots of pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

By 1954, the holiday became known as Veterans Day.

Thank a Veteran today, will you?

“I Saw America Today”

As many of you know, I was in the Navy for seven years. This continues my family’s tradition of military service; my dad retired from the Air Force after 20 years, and both my mother’s and father’s sides of the family have members who served honorably throughout the years. The same goes for my wife’s family.

I received the following from my parents the other day. Naturally, I checked its veracity and it looks legit. They also included a note:

I thought of you as I read this and how many times I have thanked God that you and your father both came home safe. God bless you son and thank you for all you did to help make this country as safer place for all of us. Words can never express how proud of you we are and how much we love you.

The note included my wife as well:

Thank you for being the person you are and for standing by our son while he served his country. You have a special place in our hearts and you always will. You are more than a daughter-in-law, you are a daughter and a very special part of this family. We love you more than words can express.

After reading the following letter, which strikes me more as a poem than anything else, I felt a bit reinforced on a position that I’ve had for a long time. There are people in today’s American landscape that stand on either side of the actions in the Middle East, driven by the politics, logistics, and realities of war. While most people I’ve encountered, regardless of their stance on the war, have shown support for the people engaged there, I’ve debated with a few who can’t distance the two. For them, military action and the military itself are one and the same, and to support the troops is to support the actions they take.

It would be easy to dismiss their claims with a wave of the hand and a quick “if you’ve never served, you’ll never understand.” While certain parts of that are true, I feel it is my duty to help non-veterans understand as much as possible about how the military dynamic works and runs. Monday morning armchair quarterbacking is easy, as are most things with 20/20 hindsight, but the community dynamic is very different from the social dynamic the rest of the world shares.

In reality, the volunteers who serve in uniform are bound by an oath to obey lawful orders. There are methods to review orders if they are questioned, but if a military member disobeys orders deemed lawful upon review, they are punished, and that has repercussions beyond their the absolution of their consciences. After all, most of these brave Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and a punishment that garnishes half a month’s pay for several months could be the difference between their children eating the next week or paying the bills.

I firmly believe that you can support the troops without supporting the war. These brave men and women volunteer to sacrifice upwards of eighteen months at a time away from their families in support of a cause they believe in. Whether or not that cause is just, that level of sacrifice demands recognition.

Furthermore, the poem below reinforces that by detailing an honor guard’s trip to bring a fallen soldier home. Along the way, he encounters people who show their respect for the sacrifice one young man has made, regardless of politics, religion, age, gender, or any other label.

They are Americans first.

One other example of this is the film Taking Chance. If you have the opportunity to watch this powerful film, please do.

“I Saw America Today”

Eric Newman, 30, was killed when a roadside bomb exploded Oct. 14 in Akatzai Kalay, Afghanistan. He married Charidy Newman last year, and was planning to become a state trooper after his career in the military was over. The funeral was held on Saturday, October 24, 2010 with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and several other medals for his exemplary service.

I saw America today.

I was among more than 200 people gathered on the tarmac at the Meridian Air Naval Station to welcome Sgt. Eric C. Newman, 30, of Waynesboro, Miss. home from Afghanistan.

He did not exit to cheers and hugs but was greeted by respectful and women, bikers, policemen, firemen, all in formation riveted their attention as Sgt. Newman disembarked from the plane carrying him.

 He exited in a flag draped coffin, killed in action in Afghanistan.

 The family stood near the hearse and as Sgt. Newman’s casket approached he was greeted by his new wife and his mother as they draped their arms around the casket where their beloved husband and son lay. There would be no married life for the newly married couple and another mother had given her son in the name of freedom.

I saw America today.

The procession formed with a police escort in front leading the hearse carrying Sgt. Newman which was followed by his family, more than 100 bikers, including the Patriot Guard Riders, scores of police officers, firemen, and friends. I rode near the front and I never could see the end of the procession as we rolled over the hills from Meridian to Waynesboro.

I saw America today.

On the 60 mile journey truckers, the big rigs, pulled to the side of the road, exited their trucks and put hand over heart in honor of Sgt. Newman and the American flag. Down the road from one big shiny rig was a humble logging truck, driver standing on the ground, hand over heart.

For sixty miles a mixture of people stood by the side of the road, flag in hand as we rolled past. At every junction where a side road entered there were people. At the overpasses there was always a fire truck displaying a large American flag. Every fire department along the way had their fire truck standing by to honor this young American who gave his life for us.

There was a young Boy Scout, in uniform, proudly saluting Sgt. Newman and the American flags that passed him.

A man in bib overalls stood by a ragged old pickup truck giving honor. Just down the road was a man dressed in suit and tie by his expensive SUV.

Something in the bright blue sky above caught my eye. It was two jet fighter planes flying over the procession, the thoughtful action of fellow soldiers.

I could see a woman kneeling, holding something out in her hands. At first I thought it must be a camera but as I passed I could clearly see it was a folded American flag. Just like the one that was given to my mother when my father died. Yes, it was her way of saying, “I lost a loved one as well.”

I saw America today.

As we left the main road and entered Waynesboro two fire trucks were parked in such a way as to form an arch with a giant American flag suspended between the two.

The streets were lined solid with people. No cars were moving. I observed someone in a wheel chair on the side of the road. When we drew closer I saw several in wheel chairs, some on crutches. They were old, and fragile. They were residents of a nursing home. On down the road there was another group from yet another nursing home, all waving tiny American flags.

As we wound our way through town hundreds of people lined the sides of the streets. We passed an elementary school. The children lined the fence three deep, most with flags, some with red, white, and blue balloons which were later released.

Next we passed the high school. Again the students respectfully lined the streets adjacent to the school. All were standing respectfully in honor of Sgt. Newman.

And did I mention the yellow ribbons? They were on trees, mailboxes, fences, and anywhere people could place them.

I saw America today.

When we had finished the escort all the bikers were asked to meet at the First Baptist Church of Waynesboro. There they gathered us up and escorted us to the Western Sizzlin’ where the people of the town treated us to lunch for doing something of which we were proud to be a part.

Today, I saw America and I’m proud to be an American. God bless America.

Rod Smith, Patriot Guard Rider

October 21, 2010

Laurel, Mississippi

In Memoriam: USS COLE (DDG 67)

Ten years ago today, two al-Qaeda terrorists committed a suicide attack against the USS COLE (DDG 67) while the destroyer was conducting refueling operations in the Yemeni port of Aden. It has been labeled as the deadliest attack on a United States naval vessel since the USS STARK incident in 1987.

My thoughts today are with those Sailors who save the USS COLE, and with those seventeen who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.

Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class (HT2) Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter
Chief Electronics Technician (ETC) Richard Costelow
Mess Management Specialist Seaman (MSSN) Lakeina Francis
Information Systems Technician Seaman (ITSN) Timothy Gauna
Signalman Seaman (SMSN) Cherone Gunn
Information Systems Technician Seaman (ITSN) James McDaniels
Engineman Second Class (EN2) Marc Nieto
Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class (EW2) Ronald Owens
Seaman (SN) Lakiba Palmer
Engine Fireman (ENFN) Joshua Parlett
Fireman (FN) Patrick Roy
Electronics Warfare Technician First Class (EW1) Kevin Rux
Mess Management Specialist Third Class (MS3) Ronchester Santiago
Operations Specialist Second Class (OS2) Timothy Saunders
Fireman (FN) Gary Swenchonis, Jr.
Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Andrew Triplett
Seaman (SN) Craig Wibberley