Memorial Day Tribute, 2016
IN HONOR AND MEMORY of Sidney Edward Stearns, my uncle, age 20, 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, KIA 19 Sep. 1944 in Holland or Germany; Charles Ellis Stearns, my second-cousin, age 18, 232nd Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, KIA 2 March 1945 in France’s Hardt Forest near German border; Thomas Earle Stubblefield, my second-cousin, age 20, 36th Tank Battalion, 8th Armored Division, KIA 5 March 1945 near Rheinberg, Germany; and all the other 405,000+ who died in the USA armed forces in the most horrific war in human history.

The greatest cataclysm in history grew out of ancient and ordinary human emotions – anger and arrogance and bigotry, victimhood and the lust for power, and it ended because other human qualities – courage and perseverance and selflessness, faith, leadership and the hunger for freedom, combined with unimaginable brutality to change the course of human events.

The Second World War brought out the best and the worst in a generation and blurred the two so that they became at times almost indistinguishable. In the killing that engulfed the world from 1939 – 1945, between fifty and sixty million [50,000,000 – 60,000,000] people died – so many, and in so many different places, that the real number will never be known.

More than eighty-five million [85,000,000] men and women served in uniform, but the overwhelming majority [killed] were civilians – men, women and children – obliterated by the arithmetic of war.

The United States of America was relatively fortunate [compared to other major nations in the conflict], losing over 405,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines…. American cities were not destroyed. American civilians were never really at risk.

But without American power – without the sacrifice of American lives – the struggle’s outcome would have been very different.

The war touched every family on every street in every town in America — towns like Luverne, Minnesota, Sacramento, California, Waterbury, Connecticut and Mobile, Alabama – and nothing would ever be the same again. 

~ Ken Burns & Lynn Novick, The War, a documentary film, 2007, written by Geoffrey C. Ward and narrated by Keith David.
I also honor all military personnel who gave their lives in service of their nation in all other wars where they fought. I lost several friends and classmates in the Vietnam War and here honor their sacrifice and memory. RIP, Pryor Wheat, Herschel South, Steve Epperson, Dub Townsend, Phil Neislar. Courageous warriors all.
As I sit here contemplating all these good men whose lives were cut short, I have goosebumps on the back of my neck, tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. My life has been deprived and yet enriched by the terrible price they paid.
But we can really say or do nothing adequate to honor these for their ultimate sacrifice UNLESS we do as Abraham Lincoln exhorted on 19 November 1863 at the site of another great battle — Gettysburg, Pennsylvania:
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
 What shall be our legacy?
 What will our children say?
 Let them say of me
 I was one who believed
 In sharing the blessings
 I received
 Let me know in my heart
 When my days are through
 America
 America
 I gave my best to you

 ~ excerpt from “American Anthem” by Gene Scheer, performed by Norah Jones in “The War,” the 2007 Ken Burns documentary of World War II.

May we never forget!  © May 28, 2016, by Michael E. Stubblefield. All rights reserved.

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