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A very proud and somber tribute.
October 5, 2011 - Michael Palmer
I was watching the funeral procession for Lance Cpl. Terry Wright go by the Scio Grade School. I was moved by the moment and on the drive home thought about how our lives can change in an instant and from that moment on they will never be the same.
For the parents of this young soldier and for many of us at some point in our lives that is all too apparent.
Tragedy strikes and we are sent on a tangent, into a different world, less perfect, colder and with less light.
Our sunny outlook and positive perspective are but facades, which hide the cruel realities of life.
I have been on assignments to photograph tiny little boys and girls with a terminal disease and leave wondering, “Where is the justice in this?”
I have been very fortunate in my personal life, having one near brush with death as a young college student and very little else that has been tragic on this scale. The most memorable incident for our family was my sister-in-law. My wife was to meet her and buy some gag gifts for my fortieth birthday but that shopping trip never happened.
My sister-in-law died after “routine” surgery, a tubal ligation gone horribly wrong, the surgeon cut the iliac artery in three places and she bled to death.
As a part of that sadness and tragic loss and can not imagine what those parents feel when they have lost a child.
I witnessed my neighbors lose a son in the Vietnam War. I can recall sitting with him as an annoying little brat who lived next door and the draft numbers being called out on the radio as he listened intently but having no idea what these numbers actually meant to him and his family.
I remember his father telling me a few months later that he would not return because he had been killed fighting for my freedom. That made quite an impact on me.
I felt a swelling of great pride last week when I saw so many Vietnam Veterans turn out to ride in tribute to their fallen comrade; they retained no bitterness because they never received a proper welcome home. They simply came out into the rain in force to honor a fallen hero.
I received e-mail today from Betty Pokas that pointed out a tragic slap in the face to our WWII veterans and thought it would be an appropriate moment to share that with you.
QUOTE: Today I went to visit the new World War II Memorial in Washington , DC . I got an unexpected history lesson. Because I'm a baby boomer, I was one of the youngest in the crowd. Most were the age of my parents, Veterans of 'the greatest war,' with their families. It was a beautiful day, and people were smiling and happy to be there. Hundreds of us milled around the memorial, reading the inspiring words of Eisenhower and Truman that are engraved there.
On the Pacific side of the memorial, a group of us gathered to read the words President Roosevelt used to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor:
'Yesterday, December 7, 1941--a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked.'
One elderly woman read the words aloud:
'With confidence in our armed forces, with the abounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.'
But as she read, she was suddenly turned angry. 'Wait a minute,' she said, 'they left out the end of the quote. They left out the most important part. Roosevelt ended the message with 'so help us God.'
Her husband said, 'You are probably right. We're not supposed to say things like that now.'
'I know I'm right,' she insisted. 'I remember the speech.' The two looked dismayed, shook their heads sadly and walked away.
Listening to their conversation, I thought to myself, 'Well, it has been over 50 years; she's probably forgotten.'
But she had not forgotten. She was right.
I went home and pulled out the book my book club is reading --- 'Flags of Our Fathers' by James Bradley. It's all about the battle at Iwo Jima .
I haven't gotten too far in the book. It's tough to read because it's a graphic description of the WWII battles in the Pacific.
Right there on page 58 was Roosevelt's speech to the nation ending with 'so help us God.'
The people who edited out that part of the speech when they engraved it on the memorial could have fooled me. I was born after the war! But they couldn't fool the people who were there. Roosevelt 's words are engraved on their hearts.
Now I ask: WHO GAVE THEM THE RIGHT TO CHANGE THE WORDS OF HISTORY?
Is it not more of disrespectful to the veterans who died n the service of their country than it would be an offense to a person who wants their religious rights placed above an historic quote made by the Commander in Chief of our armed forces?
I wonder if we could somehow ask Lance Cpl. Terry Wright what his response would be?
I was very proud to be a part of the moment as the students waved flags, some saluting and some shedding tears. I was also proud to be a resident of Harrison County because of the outpouring of support and patriotism.
As a high school student I was a bugler for the local American Legion Post and played taps for over 100 military funerals.
There are words to Taps and I share them now, uncensored.
Day is done, gone the sun, From the hills, from the lake, from the skies. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
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