Monday, May 25, 2015

I remember

According to Sarge’s Authoritative Source
“Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces. The holiday, which is observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans — established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.”
Money Quote: “Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.”  That's a pet peeve of mine.

So, I was curious to know how many people we should be honoring on Memorial day.  My first search found a very rough estimate of 1,312,332 since the American Revolution.  A more authoritarian source states the total military deaths from all causes between 1980 and 1993 at 27,070 while a different study showed the number from 1990-2011 to be 29,213.

Large numbers, too large for me to get my mind around, too large for me to properly pay my respects.  So, I’d like to introduce you to some of my friends and neighbors.
Capt Robert S. Schneider II (USAF) aka “Rocket”.  Dec 25, 1956 –Jan 24, 1990. One of the members of my Flight. Killed in a midair collision while flying an F-15.
Rocket is 5th guy (in flight suit) from the left  Right Row 2

Capt Alan J. Pryor (USAF) aka “Tex”. Oct 6, 1953-Oct 17, 1984. My best friend in College. Killed in a controlled flight into the ground  accident while flying a night mission in an F-111. Contrary to the data at the link, he was born and raised in Midland TX.  Regrettably I couldn't find a picture of him.

Capt Ross LaTorra, (USAF) Dec 1, 1958 – April 22, 1987.  One of my students at LIFT as he was going through IP upgrade, and neighbor.  Killed in a midair collision in the AT-38 along with two students.

Capt Ross LaTorra

LtCol Harry Murdock (USMC), Aug 13, 1951-Jan 10, 1995. One of my instructors while I was going through SAMS.  We had to write two monographs while there, my second was on JFACC.  Col Murdock was my advisor.  Needless to say, we had some interesting discussions on the subject.  Drowned in a flood while trying to rescue some trapped Marines.
Lt Col Murdock
Lt Col Marty Outland (US Army) May 2, 1958 – Mar 12-1998.  A colleague on the Army Staff with whom I worked Counter Drug stuff while on the Joint Staff.  Died of a Heart Attack at his desk in the Pentagon. Couldn't find a picture of him either.
Maj William Brian Downs (USAF) Jan 30, 1965-May 30, 2005.  I’ve never met him, but I wear his commemorative bracelet. Killed in a crash while on a Special Ops Training mission in Iraq.

Capt Phil Neel (US Army) Nov 27-1979-Apr 8, 2007.  Brother of 4 of my students and son of one of my employees.  Killed in action leading his unit in Diyala Province Iraq.
Capt Phil Neel

SSG Chris Staats (US Army) –Oct 16, 2009.  Husband of a teacher at the School where I work.  Killed by IED in Afganistan.
SSG Chris Staats

Finally Chris Stevens Apr 18, 1960-Sep 11, 2012.  Because, at this point, it makes a difference to ME!

Rest in Peace, All!


  1. Thank you for the reminder that it IS personal to many of us... And how large the real numbers are we have lost.

    1. It is personal, it DOES make a difference and I pray it is not in vain.

  2. No matter how they're counted, it's still too many.

  3. Thank you Juvat. My mother has on occasion spoken of a beau who was a Navy pilot - killed in WW2. 70 years later it is a subject she still is hesitant in talking about.

    I have thought of all of these deaths - it is like a stone thrown into a still pond - each death affects families for generations. Had a great uncle - Peter - killed in a trench in WW1 by a sniper - a week before Armistice.

    My grandmother claimed to be visited by an angel that evening telling her of her brother's death.

    That has been the story....

  4. Thanks, I've heard stories of attacks begun moments before the "eleventh hour". Always wondered how the troops came to terms with that and getting up the nerve to climb out of the trenches one last time. I suppose it doesn't make a difference to the dead, but I would think the "if only" factor would make it much harder on the living. May your great uncle rest in peace.

  5. It DOES matter. I always remember that these were real people, not just names on a plaque, a gravestone or a wall. Their passing devastated someone, perhaps many someones.

    I will never forget them. In many ways, every day is Memorial Day for me.

    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.

  6. When I was doing the research on Rocket's story, I came across the Obituary for his dad who'd passed a couple of years ago. Standard stuff until the very end which said that he'd never gotten over the death of his son. Not sure I've gotten "over" Rocket's death, but I have come to terms with it. I can, however, understand a Father's difficulty in doing so.

    1. There is no "getting over." There is only acceptance of what is.

      The pain lessens, it never goes away.

  7. Lots of names, but the one that stands out for me--a courageous pilot and good friend--Sam Deichelman, Capt, USAF, (RAVEN 47) MIA, SVN, 6 Sept '68. (Ironically, SAM was never downed in Laos, the most dangerous part of his tour, but, but during a "vacation" trip to see his brother at Bien Hoa (where he was flying F-4s) Sam was then to wend his way up the coast for an end-of-tour party an old friend--a Prairie Fire FAC--and I were throwing him at DaNang before he returned to his base in Laos.

    (I believe Sam has finally been declared KIA and promoted to Major posthumously due to his time in MIA status)

  8. PS: His brother was later killed in a mid-air refueling accident. The sons of an AF MAj General, all three (and their Mother) are interred at Arlington--with a memorial headstone for Sam.

    1. Upon further reflection, it's funny how the dots are sometimes connected. I first met Sam in summer of '65 at Lockbourne AFB, Columbus OH where I was attending AFROTC "summer camp." Lockbourne was a SAC base w. KC-135s and C-130s. Sam was a 1st/Lt 130 right-seater--met him at the O-Club--he was both a man's man and a ladiies man all rolled into one. We stayed in touch, where he eventually proceeded me to SEA where he became a C-123 ""Blind-Bat" AC. in Laos before he became an O-1 RAVEN FAC. He found out I was at DaNang thru a mutual friend, an O-4 Prairie Fire FAC who staged out of DaNang, but worked exclusively in Laos. Sam managed to get over to DaNang a couple of times for 2-day FAC "coordinating conferences." (LOL) so I got to know him well if only briefly. He went MIA leaving Ben Hoa after seeing his brother on an "end of tour" trip which was to have inclu a trip to DaNang for a party the Prairie Fire types were throwing him. Such is life.. a helluva guy--one of a kind. The RAVEN site has a special page for him as does Arlington.

    2. You're right, there is some neat stuff about him. Perhaps our NCOIC might look into this in the off chance his muse takes some much needed leave.

  9. Thanks Juvat.

    The "little" numbers are harder to take than the big ones. I can put names and faces to far too many of those 27,000. I remember, and the pain is still there. But so is the warmth of having known them as shipmates.

    1. It's easy to dismiss when they are "the other". 1.3 Million others, or even 27K are easy to "honor" with pleasant words. Names, Faces, and Loved Ones, not so much.These are my friends and are important to me. Readers of this blog have their own lists. But, never, ever, say to me about any of them "At this point, what difference does it make?"


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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