Remembering on Memorial Day

My Dad and I just got back from Arlington National Cemetery where his parents are buried.  I always have a somewhat somber tone around Memorial Day and other military holidays – including the Fourth of July – and I often like to go visit Arlington if I have the time.  I always try to be mindful of the sacrifice that has made my life possible.

For those of you who don’t know, my family has a pretty long history of military service in the U.S. military, and a brief stint fighting against it during the Civil War on my Dad’s side.  My Mom’s Grandfather fought in World War I in the U.S. Army (though, admittedly, I know little about his service), both of my Grandfathers were involved in World War II; my Dad’s Dad having served as a mortarman in Italy and Germany, leaving the service as a Tech Sergeant in the U.S. Army.  


Terry James Dalton had some great war stories, including how he earned his Purple Heart by getting shot at the knee in Anzio (which is what got him into Arlington) and the time an 88mm shell hit within 10 feet of him while he was…relieving himself…and thankfully didn’t go off (if it had, I wouldn’t exist, as my Dad wasn’t conceived until well after the war), which he always liked to finish by stating, “I didn’t waste any toilet paper getting the Hell out of there.”  He also had an incident where he was trapped in front of his own lines as the assault the Third Infantry Division organized had been rebuffed, and he took cover in a crater.  He was pinned there for a while by a sniper until the sun began to set and he was able to extract himself safely (a theory he tested by putting his helmet on his bayonet multiple times and waited two hours until after it took a bullet), at which point he ran back to his own lines only to get shot at by a jumpy sentry, to which he responded, “It’s Dalton, God damn it!”  He ended his combat duties while stationed at Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s Summer home.  He came into possession of a silver fork with Adolf Hitler’s monogram in the handle while he was there.  After combat, he stuck around the European Theatre to defend American deserters and war criminals.

My Mom’s Dad’s tour in World War II was more post-war, flying in helicopters finding and marking graves for recovery details.  He got out briefly and then re-enlisted.  I am unclear if he was in combat in Korea, but he served three combat tours in Vietnam as a mechanic and door gunner.  All three of my blood-related uncles – my Mom’s brothers – Joseph, Jeffrey, and Charles served in the U.S. Army in various capacities.  My Mom’s sister, Sarajane, was also an Army nurse.  Her husband, Robert, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and served as an infantry officer in Vietnam.

Both of my parents are former U.S. Marines.  My Dad was a Marine Corpse Judge Advocate, and my Mother was a Supply Officer.  My mother was the first Woman Marine (WM) attached to 7th Communications Battalion, she was also one of the very first WMs attached to Weapons Training Battalion in Quantico, VA (where my parents met).  Two of my cousins are former military as well, and I apologize for probably misidentifying their branches, but I’m trying.  Ray served in the U.S. Army, as did his brother Nick.

Itinerant Intollerance, my roommate and one of my closest friends, is a former U.S. Marine, having served two tours in Iraq.  Several of my friends from high school, including Doug Beer and Stan Kaminski, served in various services – the two I mentioned the U.S. Army and the U.S. Chair Force Air Force (sorry Stan, no offense intended).

I intended to enlist following graduation from high school.  My Mother encouraged me to attend college and then volunteer to become an officer.  Due to a sports injury sustained in high school and worsened in college, I was medically unfit for the U.S. Marines, and did not seriously consider any other branches, as most of them would have only accepted me in a support capacity, and I did not want to be a REMF.

But, to be honest, my story is largely unimportant.  I only include it because it is something that saddens me, and I feel is somewhat relevant.  The point of this post is that I have been both incredibly lucky to have had so many family members and friends serve to defend the liberties which I now currently enjoy in the luxury of my parents’ living room and incredibly lucky that they have all survived their military service.  “Thank you,” to all of the people I have listed above – and all of the service men and women past, present, and future serving either at times of war or of peace, will never be enough, but it is all I can offer.  Thank you for the sacrifices you have made and continue to make – be it sweat, time away from the comforts of home and family, blood, or your lives.  I often become frustrated with the state of this nation, especially its treatment of our veterans, but days like today, I am reminded of the wonderful things this nation has been, still is, and can still become.


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