From left to right, back row, they are T/5 L. C. Carter, Jr., Private John Bonner, Jr., Staff Sergeant Charles R. Johnson. Standing, from left to right, are T/5 A. B. Randle, T/5 Homer H. Gaines, and Private Willie Tellie." March 11, 1945. S/Sgt. W. H. Feen. 127-N-114329
Who are these guys? The description from the Office of War Information is as follows:
“Seeking to rescue a Marine who was drowning in the surf at Iwo Jima, this sextet of Negro soldiers narrowly missed death themselves when their amphibian truck was swamped by heavy seas.”
I captioned their names on the photo to the left; but as important to the memory of the soldiers of Iwo Jima (and our country) I had never heard of them before. So goes the stories of so many soldiers and so many men (and now women).
As thoughts of Memorial Day swirled around my head this weekend I tried to imagine what it would be like if I personally knew a casualty of war. What a luxury I have as so many of us have, that I have to imagine. Memorial Day isn’t just for the families and friends of the fallen, it is for all of us who have lost and all who have sacrificed.
Even as our soldiers fight overt war in foreign countries, we fight a war right here for the home they will hopefully soon come back to.
People often ask me why I wear an American flag on my lapel. Actually, what they more directly ask is whether I was in the military -no. Sometimes they wonder I’m sure, if I have family in the military. I do, but that’s not why I wear a flag pin on my suit lapels. As Americans having endured overt war for nearly 10 years it is easy for us to forget the sacrifices of people thousands of miles away; either fighting in foreign countries or fighting to survive in this one. As people that live in America, we are all connected. We are American more than because of official citizenship but rather by beliefs in ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Sometimes we get a little lucky too. I wear the flag as a reminder to myself that as they say, “freedom isn’t free” and my luck isn’t guaranteed. I wear my flag to remember that there are always those who are fighting, and always those who are dying for the sake of the fight (and the cause).
Memorial Day is everyday because somewhere in the country there is always someone who is remembering another, who has long passed away in body, but not in memory.
Personally I refer to family members of mine that left me recently and just too quickly passed away. In the words of President Ronald Regan when he referred to the astronauts of the ill-fated Challenger Space Shuttle in 1986:
“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger, honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning as they prepared for their journey, and waved goodbye and slipped the ‘surly bonds of earth’ to touch the face of God.” ~ President Ronald Reagan
The way we live our lives is truly what we have. It is what is worth remembering on Memorial Day and everyday that we can. The war we fight at home is less tangible but more insidious. It is a war against apathy, against inertia and against the dangerous state of boredom itself. It is also a war against helplessness. ‘We the people’ have always believed that we could change the world and we as inhabitants of the United States of America are still living the truth of that through the surviving experiment of our Republic. We are indeed survivors and we are “thrive-ers.”
Each one of you has someone or something you dearly remember and it doesn’t take a holiday – nor certainly a holiday sale – to bring it top of mind. Honor that memory and that feeling by seeking out the biggest challenges in your community and your country. Try to change things that matter to others even more than they matter to you. A legacy is usually built on the significance you had in the lives of people, you have had the good fortune to meet.
One day you too will need to be remembered. Someone close will be around to tell your story and honor your memory. And long after your life, many who knew you little will say, “Wow, well done.”
Happy Memorial Day and God bless America, today and everyday.
Jason Howell is the author of AMERICA: Still the Land of Opportunity, Always a Home for the Brave.” For more insights on success in business and in life, pick up your copy today. Also, be on the lookout for his newest book in the Patriotic Development™ series coming this Fall (2011).