Memorial Day, Up Close and Personal

This poignant letter tells why we grieve today for those who gave all and those who lostmost:

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

“Dear Madam:

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.”

Today, I remember my Naval Academy graduates, and particularly my Classmates who lost their lives in the sinkings of the USS Thresher (SSN-593) and the USS Scorpion (SSN-589). The Submarine Force is a special group of intelligent misfits, who understand that we all survive — or none survive.

In WWII, Submariners had the highest casualty rate — yes, higher than the first wave of Marines on the beaches of the Pacific — 24% of all submariners in the Pacific died. I was fortunate to have been trained under a WWII Submariner who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor. I can still hear him saying, “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back. Close the enemy, fire every torpedo you have and never return to port with one torpedo left!”

All Purple Hearts awarded to Submariners are given posthumously.

The Thresher and Scorpion remind Submariners that peacetime is not peaceful for Submarines.

“Of all the branches of men in the forces there is none which shows more devotion and faces grimmer perils than the submariners.”  Sir Winston Churchill

And a special nod to my Roommate from the Naval Academy, Jack Peace, who was Jean and my Best Man. (He was indeed the best man at our wedding!) He was shot down over Vietnam, seen alive on the ground, but his fate is still unknown. He was never listed as a POW, but his bones were returned.

RIP, Jack! 

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