Today is Memorial Day. A legal holiday observed annually on the last Monday in May in most of the United States, in honor of the nation's armed services personnel killed in wartime. Originally it was called Decoration Day and is still traditionally marked by parades, memorial speeches, and ceremonies. It was first observed on May 30, 1868 by order of General John Alexander Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of the American Civil War dead. The date was changed in 1971 to accommodate a new federal schedule of holiday observance.
This day is always special to me for a variety of personal reasons. Many Americans will spend this day with picnics, family gatherings, recreating and shopping. Too few will take a moment to reflect on those who paid the toll for our ability to enjoy a legal holiday. I make a point of reflecting this day on all those who have died in service of country. I include those who lived through the worst of times, and later died in time of peace which they bought and paid for. Please take a moment and remember those who bought our freedom and liberties with their lives.
Metcalfs have been warriors since before the Magna Carta. More recently (in this country), Michael Metcalf, born 1650 in Dedham, Mass., returned home one day and discovered Indians bad burned his home to the ground. That was in 1676. He formed a militia and headed south to fight in the King Philips War. His great, great grandson, Burgess, born 1741 in Medway was an Ensign (when that was still an Army rank) in the Revolutionary War. John Ingalls (another ancestor), born in Atkinson New Hampshire in 1756 also fought in the Revolution at Lexington and Bunker Hill. Burgess's son Chandler (my son's namesake), born 1798 fought in War of 1814.
My great grandfather, Willis Charles Metcalf, borne 1862 in Nasuha, N.H., was like pigeon droppings -- all over the place. He was an Indian agent, deputy sheriff, deputy U.S. Marshall, National Guard office during the Railroad strikes of Chicago in 1894, Cuba in 1899, the Philippines in 1911 and elsewhere. His son, Charles Henry won a DSC in France during WWI. My dad drove B-17s in WW2. I wore a green beanie and commanded a Special Forces Operational Detachment and later an M.P. company. Metcalfs remember friends, family and comrades ... especially this day.
It is important today to remind ourselves (AND our elected representatives) of the very real sacrifices of the few for the good of the many. The tools/assets that politicians use for partisan positioning advantage are flesh and blood assets. These assets are men and women who have sworn a sacred oath to "defend and protect" and are prepared to give their lives in defense of the republic. The Code of Conduct states, "I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces that guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in its defense." The troops deserve better than they get, and if those of us who have worn a uniform do not insist the military is given significant reason, and just cause for spending a young life ... who will?
Remember Army Special Forces Captain "Rocky" Versace? Vietnamese Communists captured him Oct. 29, 1963 in South Vietnam. Rocky resisted his captors to the end. Very few, if any, in Congress know about Captain Versace. He spent two years chained in a bamboo cage suffering almost daily torture by the enemy. Rocky routinely and continuously frustrated his Viet Cong interrogators. He refused to obey demands that he denounce America and accept the communist BS philosophy.
He told his captors as they were dragging him to an interrogation hut, "I am an officer of the United States Army. You can force me to come here, you can make me sit and listen, but I don't have to believe a damn word you say." The Viet Cong rewarded his courage and bravery with orders of Vo Van Kiet, today Vietnam's Prime Minister. Versace was dragged from his filth-ridden, mosquito-infested bamboo cage one last time and forced to kneel with his forehead pressed into the jungle mud. Rocky was then shot in the back of the head.
Marine Capt. Donald Cook was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Captain Cook was awarded our nation's highest award for valor because, during his years of captivity, he jeopardized his own health by sharing his meager supply of food and scarce medicines with other U.S. prisoners who were more sick. He became (and remains in some circles) legendary for his refusal to betray the military Code of Conduct. On one occasion, Vo Van Kiet's cadre put a pistol to Cook's head, demanding that he denounce the United States. Don, resisted and calmly recited the nomenclature of the parts of the pistol. God bless him. The Viet Cong were so PO'd at Cook's resistance they isolated him from other American prisoners. They intentionally denied him much needed food and medicine. Like Rocky Versace, Don Cook disappeared and was never heard from again.
Please, remember these men.
In the wake of this Balkan misadventure, Harold Miller, national commander of the American Legion asked President Clinton to:
we hear that 9,000 Purple Hearts have been ordered, suggesting that next
year we may have more veterans to remember.