My father, Jack, was a corporal in the Marines in World War II. He was a machine-gunner in the Second Marine Division and saw action in campaigns on Saipan, Tinian and Okinawa.
Memorial Day honors U.S soldiers who died while in military service. It was first enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War. After World War I it was extended to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
I asked this question to a number of people: What does Memorial Day mean to you?
Here are some responses:
“It’s a time to pay tribute to my family who served our country; my dad, six of my brothers and my sister.” — Mona Blanchard, Presque Isle.
“This Memorial Day will have additional significance for our family. We recently visited with our son, Marine Lt. Joseph Patrick Gahagan, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Joe has just this week deployed to Afghanistan. Our understanding that ‘freedom is not free’ has become up close and personal as we send our sons and daughters to foreign shores to protect and defend the liberty we enjoy here in the United States of America. May God continue to bless our troops as we honor our fallen heroes on this Memorial Day 2011.” — Hayes Gahagan, Presque Isle.
“Bob Fields told me before I left Nha Trang, Vietnam, in 1969, to go to the Top of the Mark in San Francisco and have a drink there. ‘To the best flight surgeon I have ever known … .’ Bob Fields was killed in a helicopter crash a month after I left, the result of enemy fire. I have let go of most of the anger now. Sadness remains, mixed with the joy of knowing such people. Memorial Day is another opportunity to join with others
remembering the many no longer here; but always in my memory.” — Air Force sergeant stationed in Vietnam 1968-69.
George Berube Sr. of Caribou was in the Navy in World War II and was part of the force ready to attack Japan when the A-bombs fell. He came home to The County, then wound
up in Waterbury, Conn. He enlisted in the Army and was at Fort Benning, Ga., before being shipped off to Korea. On the day he was to come home, he got captured and
became a P.O.W. for two years. They got two meals a day, mostly of rice and sorghum.
When released they headed across the international bridge, where they were sprayed down to get rid of the lice, took showers and were given clean clothes. When George left Korea he weighed 91 pounds.
When I think of Memorial Day I think of my father. I think of my nephew, Patrick, who flies on C-130s and has already done two tours in Afghanistan, and last I knew he was headed for Iraq. I think of a young soldier named Ryan, who I helped see off a couple of months ago as he headed back to his duty station and then to the Middle East.
Memorial Day is also the traditional start of summer. Tune up the lawn mower and inventory the fishing gear. Let’s just never forget the real meaning and the people who have protected us and continue to every day.
Ron McArdle is a Vietnam veteran who lives in Presque Isle.