Tuesday, May 28, 2024

John Blackshoe sends: Memorial Day - It’s not about BBQs, a day off, store sales or even all veterans.

Decoration Day
Carl Hirschberg
After the huge losses in the Civil War, (albeit more from disease than combat) citizens sought ways to honor the dead soldiers. In May of 1865 freedmen in Charleston, SC, decorated the graves of Union prisoners who had been buried in that city. In 1866 citizens and veterans gathered in Waterloo, New York, to honor their fallen with flowers, speeches and picnics. In 1868 the Grand Army of the Republic issued a call for an annual national commemoration on May 30th, and the name Decoration Day or Memorial Day was pretty much interchangeable from then on. In Southern states, more restrained honors and commemorations took place honoring the Americans who died fighting for the South. By the 1880s, secessionist animosities began to heal, and by 1900 joint Union and Confederate ceremonies were common. As time went on, dead from other wars, ranging from Custer’s defeat, the Spanish American War, WW1 and WW2, and our other forays into world trouble spots were included as honorees.

In 1968 a pandering Congress connived to move a bunch of holidays to Mondays instead of specific days, and Memorial Day became the last Monday every May. We began to see holidays used as excuses for sales, and actual reasons for individual holidays faded, especially with the distaste for the Vietnam War. In recent years, military appreciation has returned somewhat, and it is nice to have people think good things about veterans again, especially on 11 November Veterans Day (grown from the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month “Armistice Day” ending WW1). By all means, let all of us vets and supporters celebrate all who served, and hoist a beer in toast of all comrades, living and dead, but on Veterans Day, not Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is sacred to the honor of those who died in service to our country, not merely served.
Many people know many veterans, included a few who perished in service. Sadly, a growing number of Americans to not know any veterans, or worse, actively dislike veterans. 

This Memorial Day, spend a few minutes thinking of some you know who died in service, in peace or war, combat or training. They all served and paid the ultimate price. Here are a few I will remember:

William Allen Rees, 1943-1968. 1LT USA, died in Vietnam 5 May 1968 near Quang Tri when his AH-1G Cobra helicopter 67-15500 was shot down by ground fire, less than 3 months after he arrived in country. We were high school sports teammates.


Yup, it does feel like this.
Sixteen Navy officers and enlisted who died in the 6 October 1978 crash of U.S. Navy R6D-1 BUNO 13618 [C-118 aka C-54/DC6] transport plane which impacted a hill south of Santiago de Chile in bad weather, killing all aboard. The aircraft and crew from Detroit based Naval Reserve Transport Squadron VR-52 were supporting Operation UNITAS XIX, a joint training exercise by the navies of the United States, Peru, Chile and other South American countries. My ship’s postal clerk was one of the 16 dead.

Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon Mary Kent, USN (1985-2019)
This woman’s awesome accomplishments exceed the combined actions of a multiple superlative individuals. She overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles and challenges and truly made a difference in the field with Special Warfare operators. She was killed by a suicide bomber attack in Manbij, Syria on 19 January 2019.

CTICS Kent and her grave at Arlington National Cemetery
She survived thyroid cancer, earned Bachelors and Masters degrees while having two children and working full time with special warfare support units and the National Security Administration. She was fluent in Arabic and at least three other foreign languages. She earned the greatest respect from those she worked with as a truly overachiever “bad ass” in the most competitive and dangerous military environments. She volunteered for four deployments with Spec War types doing highly classified, dangerous, and effective missions.

Her husband (now widower), Joseph Kent is a (now) retired U.S. Army Special Forces Warrant Officer raising their two children in rural Washington state. He very narrowly lost an election for Washington’s 3rd Congressional District in 2022 and is running again this year. I chose to show my humble respect for his heroic wife by contributing to his campaign.

A biography on CTICS Kent was recently released, but I have not gotten a copy yet. “Send Me” available from Amazon) Meanwhile, I urge you to take a few minutes to read some background on her at these three links.

(The author of this piece teamed with her widower to write biography “Send Me” available from Amazon.)

New York Times Magazine account of her memorial service.

UK Daily Mail account of her service with more photos.

Thank you, God, for those who have defended our country, and paid the ultimate price.


  1. I agree with the ending sentiments, it is beyond a pity that such fine people are so often unappreciated and wasted by their governments

  2. Thanks for the links on Chief Kent, good to know there are outstanding people out there still willing to serve their country.

  3. How is it? "Letbus not mourn the deaths of these, but rather give thanks to God that such people lived "


  4. Thank you for sharing, JB. It is always good to remember such people.

  5. Those who died serving in peace of war...

  6. As I was going over the picture of CTICS Kent, which I do for most every photo of military people, I always search thru their "ribbon board". I look for "stars", "oak leaves", "v"'s, "palm trees", etc., and I just thought- the vast majority of us have little or no knowledge at all what these ribbons represent and what the devices on them mean.
    They each vary between the services, and I was wondering; is there any manual or booklet or place that we could look to to decipher the meanings of the ribbons, the medals many of them represent, and the meaning of the devices attached to them?
    I think it would be beneficial to us the next time we see the Vietnam ribbon with three stars attached, and understanding the significance of the meaning behind what is being said in that little ribbon.
    Would all of you be willing to educate us on how to better understand the meaning of the tiny ribbons as they pertain to each service?

    1. irontomflint - Though it is Wikipedia, these two articles are pretty good - awards and decorations are here, devices are here. Lots of pictures! Covers all of the services.

    2. Thank you! I hope it educates many of us as to what the ribbons and devices mean, and what those people that are wearing them have endured to earn such things.

  7. What an honor it is to be able to support this young man in his journey to take America back! It took 75 seconds to donate and the good feelings I'll have will last much longer. We need to support these men and women.
    I spent most of the day thinking about my bro-in-law who didn't get to combat in the Phantom but got fatally bit in our ORI. Capt Milton Leppert RIP. My cousin Rufus, a Marauder pilot, shot down on Valentine's Day in '45. A hero to me and the raison d'etre for me never growing up much, but enjoying the challenge.

  8. Brother Blackshoe; thank you for bringing up CTICS Kent and her widower, Joe. They are examples of the very best we have to offer.

  9. I hope they name a BURKE after her.

  10. Nice post JB, we've all posted similar, with either lost friends, acquaintances, or those that strike a chord in our soul. I get tired of people thanking veterans for their service on that Monday, even the USO expressed that sentiment.

  11. I remember how it used to tic Carrie off when people couldn't get Memorial Day and Veterans' Day straight. I miss her blog Villainous Company.


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