Memorializing Sacrifice: Honoring the Call to Arms


John Vassiliou, Editor

When you hear that it’s Memorial Day, you’re probably thinking about how to spend your three day weekend. Will I sleep in all three mornings? Will I message my friends and play a game with them on my console until midnight? Or will I meet up with them in person and play a sport or go out to town?

We ask ourselves all of these while tucking away what the extra day off is really about.

Today is the day that we thank those who have given so much to us, those who have sacrificed life and limb to perpetuate our way of life.

Thank a veteran no matter how trivial you may think what they did may have been, as they have given years of their life to keep our country free. Every service member is deserving of your respect. They have enlisted, knowing full well the potential cost to themselves, and faced obstacles which they fought to overcome in order to serve their country. They had no assurances that they would be put where they wanted to within their respective branches, and the bravery it takes to make that entry decision is something noteworthy in-and-of itself.

Our way of life is protected by our war machine, which has countless gears, pegs, wheels, and cogs, working in unison to make our country the most powerful the world has ever seen. A war machine is a team working in unison. A team requires people to do all sorts of work, from the scrawny guy who was lucky to get the job peeling potatoes in the mess hall, to the one making the decisions at the top level, everyone must play a part regardless of the glory it yields.

I was once told by a friend that his grandfather served in Vietnam. When I asked what he did, my friend told me that he was just a mechanic working to fix transport ships bringing supplies to shore. I was stunned to see that he had brushed it off as if it were no big deal, that his grandfather was just a measly little cog or peg in the machine which was run by war heroes and frontline generals. But this task, this sacrifice, is something we cannot underestimate.

I want to give you an excerpt from a speech given by one of the greatest generals in American military history, who talks about what it means to be that “useless” mechanic. In the words of General Patton:

“All the real heroes are not the storybook combat fighters. Every single man in the army plays a vital role. So don’t ever let up. Don’t ever think that your job is unimportant. What if every truck driver decided that he didn’t like the whine of the shells and turned yellow and jumped headlong into a ditch? The cowardly bastard could say to himself ‘Hell, they won’t miss me, just one man in thousands.’ What if every man said that? Where the hell would we be then? No, thank God, Americans don’t say that. Every man does his job… 

… One of the bravest men I saw in the African campaign was on a telegraph pole in the midst of furious fire while we were moving toward Tunis. I stopped and asked him what the hell he was doing up there. He answered, ‘Fixing the wire, sir’ ‘Isn’t it a little unhealthy up there right now?’ I asked, ‘Yes sir but this Goddamned wire has got to be fixed.’ I asked ‘Don’t those planes strafing the road bother you?’ And he answered, ‘No, sir, but you sure as hell do.’ Now, there was a real soldier.  A real man. A man who devoted all he had to his duty, no matter how great the odds, no matter how seemingly insignificant his duty appeared at the time.

And you should have seen the trucks on the road to Gabès. Those drivers were magnificent. All day and all night they crawled along those son-of-a-bitch roads, never stopping, never deviating from their course with shells bursting all around them. Many of the men drove for over forty consecutive hours. We go through on good old American guts. These were not combat men. But they were soldiers with a job to do. They were part of a team. Without them the fight would have been lost.”

Patton understood what being a good soldier meant, being part of your team no matter what job you were give, because at the end of the day the guy handing out the ammunition is just as important as the one firing it.

Don’t judge a veteran by whether or not they were in combat, or if they created any grand battle plans or intercepted major communication from the enemy. They have all given a part of their life for us to stay free, and we can never, ever, take that for granted.

So to all of the service men and women out there, no matter where you were or what you did, thank you for my freedom.