Matching, though in silence, the 21 gun salute.
But no cannon fire erupts in Arlington.
For this is the Tomb of the Unknowns, which bears the inscription...
HERE RESTS IN
KNOWN BUT TO GOD
The shells are screaming in faster now. The explosions are so many that it seems like one continuous roar. The Earth itself shakes, bouncing the soldiers in their trenches as each round slams into the frozen hillside.
The young private from Iowa is hunched down, trembling. He has been at the front for just a day. He is a replacement. He doesn't know his squad mates, they don't know him. He is thousands of miles from home. He is terrified.
He grips his rifle, praying that this ordeal will soon be over.
A shell explodes directly over his position. A moment of searing heat and pain.
After the shelling stops, after another assault has been repulsed, the Lieutenant wants to know where the new guy is. No one can say.
He will be carried as "Missing In Action" - one of thousands who didn't go home.
The coxswain was straining to keep his boat pointed towards the beach. The surf was up and there was more of a current than expected.
As he conned the Higgins boat towards shore, he spared a glance at the Marines hunched down in front of him.
As they got closer to the beach, a streak of light caught the young sailor's attention. He moaned quietly as he realized, "That was a tracer. Sweet Jesus, they're shooting at us!"
Geysers began to erupt close to the boat. Artillery from the defenders. Damn, this is going to be dicey.
When the keel hit the beach, he dropped the ramp, watched as the Marines began to offload and head for what little cover the beach offered. Some of them dropped into the water and didn't move.
As he brought the ramp up and began to get his boat back out to the transport for another load, two men manning a Type 96 machine gun swung the barrel of their weapon slightly to the left and up.
The Higgins boat stalled and drifted back onto the shore.
The young coxswain had done his job. His war, his life, was over.
The two F-4B Phantoms have just gone "feet dry" over North Vietnam. They are headed in to attack a "suspected truck park." Lead is alert, keeping his scan going. One mission, this mission, and then he can go home.
So far it's been a milk run, just like Ops predicted. A lot more broken cloud than the weather-guessers predicted but we should be okay. Supposed to be fairly clear in the target area.
"Jumbo," he called out to his RIO over the intercom, "how far out are we?"
"I'm showing twenty miles out, Squirt. RHAW gear is quiet, knock on wood." Jumbo said, tapping his fist against his flight helmet.
Both crew members at that point heard a garbled transmission on the squadron frequency. The hair on the back of Squirt's neck stood up, he swore he heard the word "SAM."
"Eyes out Jumbo."
"Yeah, I thought I heard SAM in that last call." Jumbo replied from the back seat.
"Uh, Bullet Four, did you copy that last transmission." Squirt radioed to his wingman.
"Negative, Three. I'm getting a lot of static..."
"JESUS CHRIST, THREE BREAK LEFT!!!"
The crew of Bullet Four could only stare in horror as what used to be Bullet Three was just a dirty smudge in the sky, raining debris...
|World War One's Unknown Soldier comes home.|
Please enjoy this weekend. It's the unofficial start of summer. Time for picnics, trips to the beach, cookouts and baseball.
Yes, it's Memorial Day weekend.
It's a time to honor those who gave their lives in defense of our country. Our way of life.
Those who gave their lives for us, for you and me.
Spare a moment for them this weekend.
Just a moment.
If those who died for us could, they would be alongside us this weekend. Having a beer. Turning over a burger on the grill. Watching the ball game.
But they can't. So we need to remember them.
Honor their memories.
This weekend, as I always do, I shall raise a glass to the sky...
And salute those who gave the last full measure.
Quietly, I'll say "Cheers my brothers and sisters."
And I'll say, softly and with a tear in my eye, "Thank you."
|The Old Guard transports the flag-draped casket of the second Sergeant Major of the Army George W. Dunaway who was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.|
(U.S.Army photo by J.D. Leipold 2008)
|A tugboat tows the decommissioned aircraft carrier Midway past Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to San Diego Bay.|
(U.S. Navy photo by Geoffrey Patrick, Jan. 5, 2004)