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Memorial Day is an American Holiday

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.  Memorial Day 2018 occurs on Monday, May 28.  Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

We are in the middle of the 75thanniversary of WWII and according to US Department of Veterans Affairswe are losing our military veterans at the rate of 372 per day.  Only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.

With Memorial Day on the horizon I was asked to write an article for our church web site about Memorial Day.

Not being a prolific writer myself I decided to memorialize the person I most admired, my father.

My father passed away January 17, 2008 at the age of 91.  He was someone I looked up to and am very proud of.  He served our country for 27 years in the US Army and was a WWII and Korean War veteran.  He like millions of others of his generation answered the call of duty and fought for our freedom thousands of miles away.

Dad never talked much about his overseas service until later in life when I was able to encourage him to open up and reveal his memories of his time Over There.

When I was born July 12, 1943, dad was supposed to be with his company on the way to Camp Polk Louisiana preparing to be sent overseas. Fortunately, he was the First Sergeant of the company and knew where the company would be, so he stayed behind to see me born.  He left the next day to join his company.

They boarded the SS Alexander on August 20thand set sail for Oran Africa and he would not see us again until he returned home in May 1945.  When he returned home he said I was a spoiled little boy for having lived nearly 2 years with my mother’s parents in St. Augustine, Florida where I was born.

As I stated before dad was the First Sergeant of his unit and served all over Europe from Anzio Beachhead to Southern France.

Just like many other veterans he wore numerous campaign ribbons and awards proudly on his uniform, but I know he was most proud of the Bronze Star award (with “V” for Valor) he won in the Korean War.

The Korean “Conflict” as it was described was much more than a Conflict in the eyes of those who were there.  It was a bloody and brutal War with Korean and Chinese forces swarming our troops.

He received the Bronze Star ironically for his actions on November 30, 1950, the day my brother was born.  Dad was in North Korea in the vicinity of Kunu-ri leading his 2ndInfantry Division Artillery unit through a narrow mountain pass.  The convoy was attempting to break through an enemy roadblock about 5 miles in depth.  During the trip their column was subjected to intense mortar, grenade and automatic weapons fire from both sides of the pass.  Knocked out vehicles blocked the road and made progress very slow.

As dad recalled it, there were also bodies blocking the way that had to be removed at times.  It was now dark, and the column had to move or be destroyed.  Despite the heavy enemy fire, dad got out of his vehicle and proceeded on foot throughout the five-mile series of enemy roadblocks and was successful in leading the convoy through.

We thank God for giving him divine protection during his time of service to our country and we are very thankful for all those who served or are currently serving our country.

Our country has called on men and women over the years to serve during peace time or in conflict, from WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq.  Let’s all take time this Memorial Day to thank a veteran for their service… especially those who served our nation at times of war.

George Snyder