Monday, May 31, 2010

He gave his life for the U.S.A.

My father-in-law is from the small town of Walker, IA. Saturday we went to the Walker Cemetery to visit Lee’s parents’ graves. Seth Crawford is buried about 100 yards away. His monument reads:

“1891 – 1918
Killed in action at Veslie River, France
He gave his life for the U.S.A.”

My great uncle was severely wounded in WWII and hated everything German the rest of his life. My father fought in Korea. I lost 2 high school classmates in Viet Nam. Last summer the son of my best man was badly wounded in Afghanistan.

My father taught me to respect the young men and women we send off to war. In his later years he became an advocate for veterans benefits and I remember going with him to the Portland (OR) veterans hospital as he was nearing the end of his life. He saw a couple of doctors, had some tests done and then got some prescriptions to fill. Dad, my brother, Jeff, and I went into the pharmacy. The waiting room was packed. There might have been upwards of 50 people in there and just one pharmacist on duty. We waited for over an hour. I was struck by the patience of these men – men who had fought in Europe, the South Pacific, Korea and Viet Nam.

After we picked up Dad’s prescription and got out the front door his anger finally erupted – not over his own wait – but that of the others, “That’s just horse****! Those poor bastards shouldn’t have to wait like that! They deserve better!”

It has become the tradition of this blog on Veterans Day to pay tribute to those who have walked off the mat and gone on to serve our country and on Memorial Day I honor those who have wrestled and have fallen in our service. Past Memorial Day editions have remembered posthumous Medal of Honor winner “Tommy” Noonan who was called by his friends “the best wrestler ever at Hunter College” and who was killed in Viet Nam, Naval Academy All-American and Silver Star winner, Doug Zembiec (The Lion of Fallujah), Patrick Lybert, a high school wrestler and Eagle Scout who was posthumously awarded a Silver Star for his actions in Afghanistan and Christopher Adeslperger whose family was given his Navy Cross for his actions in Iraq.

Last September President Obama awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Sgt. Jared Monti of Raynham, MA. Sgt. Monti had been a championship wrestler at Bridgewater-Raynham High School and was killed in the same engagement as Sgt. Lybert. Go here for a full description of the battle.

I wish I could stop adding names every year, but tragically, I can’t. Earlier this month Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Davis of Perry, IA was killed in action in Afghanistan. In an article in the Des Moines Register, his wrestling coach, Steve Hamilton, observed, “’The thing that was cool about him was that he had no quit in him.’” Even though he wasn’t the best wrestler on the team, “’he didn’t get discouraged; it didn’t break his will.’”, said Hamilton.

Again from the Register article:

“Hamilton, the wrestling coach, said he wasn’t surprised when Davis told him he wanted to join the Marines.”

“’I told him it was a good fit for him’ Hamilton said, because he was disciplined, took direction well and was a good leader. ‘I thought he’d do well in that arena.’

“’ It’s just unfortunate’”.

I don’t care about your politics – whether you’re a “Hawk” or a pacifist. When someone goes off to war in the name of freedom, we owe them our respect and our thanks. And for those families who lost a son or daughter or a brother or sister – we owe them our sympathy. It’s the very least we can do.

In honor of Sgt Arthur Brown Jr (shown in Korea).