Province, Republic of South Vietnam
In Memory of Marine LCpl. Clement Johnston, Jr., killed 4/28/66 in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of South Vietnam
By honoring the sacrifice of those who have, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, already “given the last full measure of their devotion,” we also honor all those who, like my young Marine nephew, are currently fighting in some hard, unfriendly place, half a world away.
A Few Additional Thoughts on This, the First “Summer” Holiday of the Year
WWII U.S. Cemetery, Normandy, France, The Gardens of the Missing
As I walked along, I found myself scanning the “Wall.” Finally, when I reached the area of the monument that covered the period of my own service — for those who have not seen it, the names on the Wall are organized by date — I was surprised to discover that my mind had gone almost completely blank. Despite having spent some thirty months in Southeast Asia, I suddenly discovered that, somewhere during the march of years, I had forgotten many, if not most, of my old comrades’ names. In a lot of cases, if I could remember a name, I couldn’t match it with a face, or vice versa. This effect was particularly pronounced when it came to the soldiers and marines that I had served with in I Corps (Quang Tri Province) near the DMZ, during my first year in Vietnam. But it spilled over into other situations and locations, as well. Guys I had had the odd beer with, or played poker with, or had met on R&R in Bangkok or Malaysia, or Taiwan. These were just regular Americans; not really so much friends, as the typical GIs that you bump into and get to know when you’re in a place long enough. This wasn’t to say that I had forgotten everyone, but only that I had forgotten far too many. And the most troubling thing of all was that I had somehow forgotten the names or the faces of those I knew who had been killed. Now, none of my closest friends had been killed or even wounded. Others that I knew, however, had not been so lucky, and as I walked along the mock-up of the “Wall,” I couldn’t help feeling that these others deserved better. And not just from me, but from everyone. I couldn’t shake the sense that, somehow, I had let these young men down. And this idea brings me, finally, to the dedication at the beginning of this piece.
WWII U.S. Cemetery, Lorraine, France - View of the memorial from the graves
May you, my readers, and those you care about, all have an enjoyable and safe Memorial Day Holiday. And may those who wear our country’s uniform and who daily go into harm’s way, in dangerous, far-off places, also have a safe Memorial Day!