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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
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
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:
- Provide a clear statement of why it is in America’s vital national
interests to be engaged in hostilities.
- Establish guidelines for the mission, including a clear exit
- Ensure that both Congress and the American people fully support
- Ensure U.S. Forces will be commanded ONLY by U.S. officers.
Apparently the president’s fund raising tasks and extra-curricular
activities have precluded him from squeezing out time to listen to, or
even respond to Miller. However, it is interesting to read Miller’s four
points and compare them with the 1984 series of tests to be satisfied
before American troops would be sent into combat drafted by then
Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. The tenets are:
- Is a vital U.S. interest at stake?
- Will we commit sufficient resources to win?
- Will we sustain the commitment?
- Are the objectives clearly defined?
- Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will
support the operation?
- Have we exhausted our other options?
Unlike Vietnam, the Gulf War met all the Weinberger criteria. The
Kosovo adventure meets none of the above.
Meanwhile, we hear that 9,000 Purple Hearts have been ordered,
suggesting that next year we may have more veterans to remember.