Between wars, he attended college on the GI Bill and earned a commission in the Army as a 2d Lieutenant which resulted in his posting to Korea later.
I asked him why, after fighting for nearly four years, he wanted to get a commission knowing full well that it would make him readily available to face additional horrors and bloodshed. He just looked at me and replied simply, "It was the right thing to do."
He wasn't cocky, he wasn't bragging, he just wanted me to know that he did what he thought was right and it made me ask myself a question. How many Americans are willing to sacrifice like that today?
Now I don't have the answer but I do know that Americans have a long history of answering their nation's call. And the brave souls who fought and died for this country during the World War II era were special and they set a high bar to follow. They had a bond of courage and honor that kept them on track and kept them going. And while we celebrate the thousands of brave Americans who gave "the ultimate sacrifice" for their country today, we must also recognize the thousands and thousands more who put their family and career on serious hold in order to keep us free, only to return home almost as a stranger.
Some came home after being away so long their families hardly knew them. Some met children they had never seen. Many had to start their careers over from scratch after an absence of up to five years, yet they labored on after return, despite their scars and memories of war. They raised families, developing in them the same patriotic spirit that had kept them alive during those difficult times.
All of these folks deserve our honor and our respect and I ask of you, should you meet any of these brave souls today at ceremonies around the country, step up to them, shake their hand, and offer a simple thank you. And, of course, this goes for any of our active and uniformed forces who willingly stepped up to do what had to be done at many different times in our history.
On Memorial Day 2013, I thank God for the souls of our dearly departed heroes and the fine veterans of combat over the years. I also pray that we can find a way to avoid future bloodshed. But I also thank God that when we can't avoid conflict, we have citizens willing to step up and do what has to be done. As long as this is the case, America will never die.
Happy Memorial Day and God bless America.