Memorial Day & this great gift called ‘America’By DENNIS WYATT The Bulletin
It’s Saturday. To most of us, it means the start of a three-day weekend to enjoy family, shopping or travel.
Maybe we’ll hit the Delta or shop for clothes today, worship at the church of our choice Sunday and do yard work Monday.
And, oh yeah, it’s Memorial Day weekend.
Anyone want to take a shot at why we have a holiday Monday?
It’s more than simply honoring those who died wearing our country’s uniforms. It’s a day we can reflect on the great sacrifice thousands have made over the past 250 years so we can live in a land where we are free to raise our families, free to shop where we choose, free to travel, free to pursue recreational activities, free to worship as we choose and free to essentially do what we want as long as it doesn’t tread on the rights of others.
Friends and family of the four men who have come to represent Manteca’s war sacrifices — Hope McFall (World War I), Kenneth Grisham (World War II), Gordon Thomas (Korean War), Brock Elliott (Vietnam War), and Charles O. Palmer II (The Global War on Terror) know the price all too well. Sixty-six men who called Manteca home died at war. The four listed happened to be the first to die.
There are, of course, thousands of others who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom and America’s embracing the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness with the gusto most of us will experience this weekend.
We need to all take a moment on Monday to reflect on what it costs to be a free nation.
There are various ways we can do this.
One is attending the Memorial Day ceremonies at 11 a.m. at East Union Cemetery, Louise Avenue and Union Road.
Another way is to proudly display Old Glory in honor of those who died to keep the flickering candle of freedom alive. But perhaps the most important gesture we can all make is to reflect for a few minutes on what made it possible for this nation to prosper and thrive under democratic principles and individual freedoms too many of us take for granted. The ideas of liberty, freedom, and democracy have been around for more than a millennium. It took the blood of men and women, though, over the past several centuries to finally make those three concepts a universal reality, at least for Americans.
And when you finish reflecting, share your thoughts with a youngster so they can learn to value and treasure this great gift called America that men like Hope McFall, Kenneth Grisham, Gordon Thomas , Brock Elliott, and Charles Palmer II protected with their lives.
Faces of freedom: 10 men & women on a mural
At Prestige Assisted Living at Manteca, we’re proud to have several veterans in our community. We’re grateful to all the men and women who serve our country with pride and honor.
LEARN MORE Contact us at (209) 239-4531 or visit us online at prestigecare.com/manteca
Do yourself a favor. Get your nose out of your smartphone. Go down to Yosemite Avenue and Main Street and take a look at the 10 faces you’ll see smiling at you from the wall of the Manteca Bedquarters.
Bill Castillo. Leland Elliott. Maria Huarte. John Machado. Avis Wessling Brewster. Jay Scalf. Woodrow Brumley. Bud Dickman. Doris Williams.
If you have no inkling of who these people are, let me help. They are the reason you and half the world today have the freedom to text and surf the Internet to your heart’s content. They are why the government isn’t rounding up people worshipping as they choose on Sundays and shipping them off to a desolate camp or worse.
It is because of men and women like them that you are free to travel where you wish this Memorial Day weekend and can enjoy the bounty of a free nation where those with a dream can make their fortunes devising products and services that 80 years ago weren’t even on Buck Rogers’ radar.
Had Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo — the ultimate evil Axis — prevailed life in the United States today would be more like it is in North Korea.
The Manteca Mural Society creation fittingly dubbed “Spirit of America” is more than just about the faces you see
there. It represents the 957 Manteca men and women who served in World War II and the 35 that did not return. It also represents the sacrifices and are effort made on the home front by thousands more.
The war ended 78 years ago. It’s ancient history to most of us. What those dark days were like after Dec. 7, 1941 and the unconditional surrender of Japan on Aug. 10, 1945 is a mere abstract especially to young people who enthusiastically embrace the freedoms secured by the blood and sweat of countless millions before them.
The mural is also more than just about the role of Manteca residents in World War II. Some 16.1 million Americans served in the military during the war. There were 407,316 deaths and 671,278 wounded.
Worldwide, 690 million people fought. There were 72 million combat deaths plus 6 million Jews killed in the holocaust.
Yet from those horrors — arguably the worst man has ever inflicted upon man — Americans came home not intent on seeking revenge or enjoying the spoils of war but to rebuild this country and the world.
We didn’t enslave the losers. Instead we oversaw the rebirth of Japan, Germany, and Italy as well as scores of other countries devastated by the war. We also, for better or worse, set the United States on a course to play global cop in an effort not to have a third world war.
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The returning soldiers were the ones that set things in motion to put a man on the moon, to lay the foundation of the Internet and its unparalleled freedom, to substantially increase food production, find cures for disease that have long-ravaged mankind, and exported the knowhow and technology to reduce famine, the rampant spread of disease, and improve sanitary living conditions.
The spoils, in other words, for the first time in history no longer went to the victors as the victors were intent — perhaps a bit starry-eyed — to reduce human misery and head off more wars way beyond our borders.
And they had a conscience. They debated — as we still do — the decision to drop the bomb.
There’s little doubt the bomb saved countless American and Japanese lives by avoiding a prolonged and deadly invasion of Japan.
The mural, without a doubt, is my personal favorite. That’s because everything I enjoy today would have been impossible without the sacrifices those men and women made.
It is a powerful piece of public art. And it certainly captures our history and tells a story — two of the objectives over 20 years ago listed by a fledging group known as the Manteca Mural Society.
The men and women who served in World War II are indeed representative of this nation’s spirit.
Freedom isn’t secured by a piece of paper or just wishing. It is secured by men like Bud Dickman and Bill Castillo as well as women like Doris (Knodt) Williams.
We are indebted to them for their selfless acts and for our liberties.
This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
We Salute and Honor Our Troops-
American war deaths have varied dramatically, depending on the war they were volunteering (or being drafted) to fight. Some fell to the
enemy, many more fell to disease. Since the Revolutionary War ended, 646,596 American troops have died in battle and more than 539,000 died from other, non-combat related causes.
Revolutionary War Deaths
Around 230,000 proto-Americans fought in the Continental Army. The colonial militias mustered up another 145,000. The death toll was around 6,800. Disease was a much deadlier enemy killing 17,000 would-be Americans.
War of 1812 Deaths
Some 15,000 Americans died as a result of the War of 1812. Around 2,260 deaths were due to the fighting. The rest were from disease.
Mexican-American War Deaths
The 1846 war, which expanded the United States to include Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and parts of Colorado, There were 1,733 U.S. troops were killed in the war. Another 11,550 died from diseases and non-combat mishaps.
Civil War Deaths
A rough estimate from the American Battlefield Trust puts the number of Americans killed in the Civil War at around 650,000.
Indian Wars Deaths
The U.S. Army worked to support “Manifest Destiny” and westward expansion. Some 106,000 American troops fought and at least 1,000 died doing it.
Spanish-American War Deaths
The total number of American service members who fought in the
Spanish-American War hovered around 306,700, with only 385 dying in combat. More than 2,000 fell to disease.
World War I Deaths
With 4.73 million men in uniform, World War I saw Americans mobilize like never before. Around 2.5% of those Doughboys would not make it home, as 53,402 fell to the enemy and another 63,114 to other causes.
World War II Deaths
This war, which saw more than 16 million Americans don a uniform and completely reshaped American society, actually had a lower proportional combat death toll than the Civil War.
Korean War Deaths
Of the 1.79 million who served in Korea, 36,574 Americans died fighting and with a total of 54,246 died as a result of the war.
More than 58,220 American troops died during the course of the Vietnam War. Despite the prolonged fighting, improvements in battlefield medicine and the mobility of helicopters helped save many lives.
Gulf War Deaths
The Gulf War of 1990-1991 saw a force of 694,550 American troops in service or deployed in support of the war. Of those, only 383 were killed.
Iraq and Afghanistan Deaths
Of the 2.5 million American troops deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Of those, 5,364 died in action, and another 1,476 died in non-hostile incidents.
‘In Flanders Fields’ — A tribute to the fallen
For seventeen days and seventeen nights, John McCrae, a soldier in World War I and a surgeon during the second battle of Ypres in Belgium, said that he and his comrades never took their clothes off or boots, except occasionally.
“In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds, he said. Behind all the noise, all we could see were sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and the terrible anxiety lest the line should give way.”
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a soldier, physician, and poet. He was also the son of a military leader who grew up believing in fighting for his country.
His friend, Alexis Helmer, was killed during the battle on May 2. While McCrae was performing the burial service for his friend, he noticed the beautiful red Poppies that quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres.
The seeds had scattered in the wind and sat dormant in the ground, only germinating when the land was disturbed as it was by the fierce fighting of World War I.
The day after his friend’s burial, McCrae composed the poem “In Flanders Fields.” He wrote the poem in the voice of the dead soldiers. It speaks of their sacrifice and issues the challenge for the living to press on.
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, May 1915
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.
McCrae composed the poem while
sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres. This location today is known as the John McCrae Memorial Site.
In 1918, an American professor, Moina Michael, was so touched by McCrae’s poem that she wrote a responsive poem to the fallen soldiers of Flanders Field. She vowed to wear the poppy to remember all soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom. She became known as the Poppy Lady.
In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. Other countries began to wear a single Poppy on Memorial Day and later included Veteran’s Day to include all living and deceased veterans.