Good afternoon Colonel, it’s a beautiful day here in Missouri, a perfect day to honor the men and women who have gone before us, their work guaranteeing the sanctity of America, done. I can only imagine the conversations between you and your fellow soldiers as you sit around the gilded barracks reserved for that special group of folks we call military veterans. Knowing the tremendous value that you placed on intelligence, I know that you are aware of the acknowledgement of your efforts by America on this day we set aside for you and yours.
It doesn’t seem possible that 44 Memorial Days have passed since you lost the fight with cancer. We still talk about the service that day, the crispness and respect shown you by the cadre of Special Forces troopers who bore your casket, each personally selected by you in the months prior to your death. It was quiet at the National Cemetary, a quiet that was broken only by the rifle salute and playing of Taps, the precision of the troopers was moving……something I am sure you were proud of. A review of your citations and awards, the airborne units you were most comfortable with and the various commands that you held, strongly support the notion that cancer was likely the only fight you lost. I, for one, have not forgotten your innate ability to go from the smiling, affable fellow you were most of the time, to the narrow eyed, calm and calculated demon you could be. I haven’t forgotten Uncle Herman’s, also a military veteran, description of you as the most dangerous man he has ever known. These qualities served you well at the Chosin Reservoir and the highlands of Vietnam. I recall a conversation at Ft. Leonard Wood shortly after our arrival there about the bitter cold. My complaint about the snow and cold prompted a smile from you and the remark that cold is a relative thing and is never a problem when you can dodge inside and warm up….a luxury you did not have in the fight at the Chosin Reservoir where you earned your battlefield commission and silver star. I also recall your avoidance of air conditioning on Okinawa, where you began your tour as a Battalion commander in the 173d Airborne Brigade. You were in between tours in Vietnam and had been acclimated to the heat of the jungle. I can also recall you being delivered to our quarters on Okinawa, pretty well blitzed after attending a ritual referred to as “Prop Blast”, a particular right of passage in airborne circles. I suppose the adage “fight hard and play hard” was in play here.
I only saw you cry one time in our short time together. I will never forget your coming home and telling our family that “some sorry son of a bitch” just shot the President. John Kennedy, another veteran of great accomplishment, is generally acknowledged to be the father, if not patron saint, of Special Warfare and, by extension, Special Forces. You led a parade in the President’s honor, of which pictures still exist. Your emotion, in this instance, was reflective of your love for America and your incredible sense of duty. I have to be honest here, your referral to President Kennedy’s killer in obscene terms was a true reflection of your rather profane way of conversing, a trait that I have carried on with little dignity and sense of decorum. In fact, your diminutive daughters, on rare occasion, can also turn the air blue with a profane precision that would bring a smile to your face. Apples falling close to the tree comes to mind.
Well, dad, excuse me, Colonel, a short briefing on the state of America is in order. We are still the finest Republic on the face of the earth and we are in a bit of a patriotic era. We have a President who appears to be hell bent on restoring prominence to the military and a Congress that, for the most part, is supportive. We are still turning out veterans who are willing to fight and die for this country, who are being led by mostly competent officers. The ceremony today, at the Tomb of the Unknown, was moving and served to remind those who care about such matters, that blood must always be shed to protect this country. As I do every Memorial Day, I want to offer my deep appreciation to you and your troopers on this day. Later today, as I enjoy a thick steak on the grill, we will raise a glass to you and the veterans you are with. Your ability to raise a particularly nasty kind of hell on the battlefield has guaranteed the peace we are enjoying.
I miss you…….