Today we call the roll:
Bunker Hill. The Battle of Bladensburg. San Juan Hill. Chateau Thierry. Monte Cassino. Guadalcanal. Midway. Chosin Reservoir. Khe Sanh. An Nasiriyah. Fallujah. Garmsir. Today is the day to honor those men and women who helped found and protect the United States: the American Veteran.
America has been blessed with a citizenry that has produced some extraordinary Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen through its history. William Travis drawing a line in the sand at the Alamo. Cpl. Alvin York in the Argonne. Sgt. Dan Daly rallying the surviving Marines to charge the German machine guns at Belleau Wood, "Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you want to live forever?" Gen. O.P. Smith from Chosin Reservoir, "We're walking out, and we're bringing our wounded and our dead with us." Sgt. Robert Banfield, Marine Artilleryman at An-Nasiriyah, "Hurry up! We've got Marines dying up there!"
"I enlisted. I was drafted. I served in the Guard." While Americans enlist for a variety of reasons, it's worth remembering that in the depths of the 2005-2006 carnage in the Sunni Triangle, US Marine recruiting offices were jammed with young men and women wanting to do their part for their country.
Many make it a family tradition. Linda Woodland's father, Sgt Hamilton Woodland served in the Army Air Corps in WW2, as did her uncle Ralph Howell 3rd, but their tradition dates back much further; while her great-grandfather John C. Howell enrolled in 1862 as sergeant of Company H, Twenty-seventh New Jersey Volunteer Infantry, and fought at both Fredericksburg and Vicksburg, ancestor John Pellet, Jr. fought in the Revolution.
Sgt Adam Grau is another whose family tradition dates back to the Civil War. Both grandfathers plus a grandmother served; Sgt. Irv Schulwolf, Army, Korean War, Cpl. Wallace E. Grau, 9th U.S. Army Air Force, WW2, and Petty Officer Dorothy Slivka Grau, Navy, WW2. So did his great-grandfather Pvt. Walter Grau, American Expeditionary Force, WW1 who was a machine gunner like Adam. Their tradition began with Cpl. Albin Knolle, 26th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 11th Corps, Army of the Potomac, who received a battlefield promotion the evening of 7/1/1863, the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and later WIA at the Battle of Lookout Mtn. TN. Died of war wounds 1886.
The freedoms enjoyed by Americans today have not come easily. Spanish-American War: 2,446 killed; WWI 116,708 - WWII: 405,399 - Korea: 53,686 - Vietnam: 58,236 - Iraq: 4,427 - Afghanistan: 2,350 The totals unfortunately include such fine men and women as Sgt. Justin Noyes, Fallujah; HN3 Chris "Doc" Anderson, Ramadi - Maj. Megan McClung, Ramadi; Capt. Travis Patriquin, Ramadi, and Lance Cpl. Gavin Brummond, Marjah.
From where does America get such men, author James Michener once wondered. Noyes came from a little town in Oklahoma, Doc from outside of Denver. Iwo Jima flag raiser Sgt. Mike Strank came from Pittsburgh by way of Czechoslovakia, while his fellow flag raiser, Pvt. Ira Hayes, came off an Arizona Indian reservation, as did the Marines' famed Navajo Code Talkers. The Army's Nisei Battalion, the most heavily decorated — and wounded — of WWII, was of Japanese ancestry, and it's worth noting that 57,000+ immigrants became citizens since 9/11 while forward-deployed.
While WW2's Rosie the Riveter received the publicity, women in the military wrote their own chapters. After 22 Army nurses were captured by the Japanese when the Army surrendered at Corregidor, women rushed to enlist. Sgt. Clare Mendell (later wife of Marine Capt. James Lubin) commanded the women's unit at Quantico that wrote "The Letter" to the families of the KIA Marines, and during the war, most of the Army Air Force planes ferried to England were flown by women – with 36 of them crashing and dying on the way. Women Marines and soldiers have earned Bronze and Silver Stars while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America's Women Warriors have received their fair share of Purple Hearts. The valor and capabilities of America's female combat veterans is not a topic that needs debating.
Thank you, all who serve or have served; it's you who protects America.