My father grew up hearing stories about his ancestors who served in the military. He was told stories of his great-great-grandfather, James Campen, who was an officer in the Revolutionary War under George Washington. He was so impressed with the story of his great-great-grandfather James’ Revolutionary War service that he named his firstborn son, not after himself as was traditionally done in the south, but for great-great-grandfather James!
When the U.S. entered World War I, my father, who was 19 years old at the time, wanted to do what he could for our country and follow the tradition set by his ancestors. In 1917, he joined up and served in the Navy until the war ended.
As a child, I remember him telling stories of the Marines who he often served beside and how extremely impressed he was with them. As I listened to his stories, I told myself that if I ever served in the military, I wanted it to be in the Marine Corps. Which is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, my father never saw me in uniform because of his untimely death when I was but 16.
As Memorial Day approaches, I am reminded of those who lost their lives in the service of our country. And I think about the decisions our leaders made that brought us the wars we’ve been involved in. The merits of these decisions can be argued by those on either side of the aisle and also by ordinary people who oppose or condone the action. But we can all agree that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country deserve our thanks, our respect, and our gratitude.
For sure, it would be wonderful if everyone throughout the world would honor each other in a loving and respectful way so there would be no war. But, the realities of our world dictate that we must be ready to defend our way of life.
When I went into the Marines, I was fortunate and was not on the battleground. My bunkie during boot camp at Parris Island, William Canter, was not as fortunate. He was in Vietnam less than a year when he was killed in action. Whenever I go to our nation’s capitol, Washington, DC, I always make it a point to go to the Vietnam Memorial and find his name on the wall and say a prayer of thanks for him.
This Memorial Day, I will not only say a prayer of thanks to my bunkie, William Cantor, but I will also say a prayer for all the courageous men and women who died while serving our country. Their sacrifice is not forgotten.