June 6, 2013 marks the 69th anniversary of "Operation Overlord" - the D-Day invasion where more than 160,000 allied troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of French Coastline to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France in 1944. The invasion led to the deaths of more than 9,000 allied forces, but the victory resulted in a significant turning point for Europe's history. Today, we would like to honor the allied forces that participated in the invasion by sharing a film created by the U.S. Army in 1969. In this film, the drama and battle action of the landing at Normandy is portrayed along with the fierce combat that took place to overcome "Fortress Europe" (compliments of the National Archives).
On this day in 1944, more than 180,000 troops (app. 24,000 airborne and 160,000 soldiers) began the liberation of Europe. The landing zones ran for more than 50 miles, and faced formidable obstacles and determined resistance. Estimates vary, but at least 8,000 Allied troops fell that day.
On The Beach
Depending on where they were in that 50-mile stretch, the men coming ashore might have to wade for a considerable distance, before having to cover more than 300 meters of open sand to even have a hope of finding cover. The orders were to move forward, leave the wounded, and press on.
If anyone has a relative in the American Cemetery at Normandy, and would like me to visit and/or try to put a flower on the grave on the 6th, drop me a line at blake spammers suck at symbol blakepowers and the obligatory dot net and I will be glad to do what I can.
Repost from 2010, with additions from a speech I gave last year.
He scarce had need to doff his pride or slough the dross of Earth -- E'en as he trod that day to God so walked he from his birth, In simpleness and gentleness and honor and clean mirth.
So cup to lip in fellowship they gave him welcome high And made place at the banquet board -- the Strong Men ranged thereby, Who had done his work and held his peace and had no fear to die.
Today, we as a nation (and hopefully as individuals) honor those who gave all of their tomorrows so we could have this day. As you travel, enjoy food and drink, or do some activity: they gave their life so you could do those things.
They have paid the price for you to have this day. The least we can do is remember them, on this their day. Think of them, give thanks for what they did, and acknowledge that price paid.
Today, I will take the time to honor them as a group, and to remember some individuals. I will remember Major Mathew Schram, whom I never met, just as I will remember my Uncle Foster who's body lies somewhere just off Japan. I will remember Andy Olmstead. I will remember the men who paid the blood price for COP Ellis to be built, and helped usher the Anbar Awakening into Baghdad. I will remember the men of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. The latter groups were major parts of why I did my two embeds. I never met them in life, but they have shaped who I am today.
I will remember Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris, I man I can't say I truly met, for a nod, a hi, and a brief ID do not constitute truly meeting someone. What I can say is that I know that which is best in you, for no greater love hath any man. You died doing for your brothers, and I remember that this day.
Recently, a few of us have been talking about a phrase that can quickly (for some of us) put teeth on edge: "Happy Memorial Day" The phrase strikes me as at best odd, and for far too many an indicator of a lack of knowledge about the day. Trust Chuck to put things in perspective. With his permission, I quote a part of a speech he is giving today:
Many of our fellow citizens have no understanding of the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day, other than it means a long weekend. Many people, especially those with no connection to the military, often confuse the two, citing Memorial Day as a day to thank those serving the nation in uniform. Recently, a friend of mine commented that “Memorial Day is meant to pay homage to those who gave their lives for this country and our way of life. It is a day to honor the dead. There is NO such thing as “Happy Memorial Day.”
Respectfully, I disagree, in part, anyway.
Memorial Day is a happy yet solemn, joyful yet tearful, partly sunny yet mostly cloudy kind of day.
We are living the days these men and women never will. Live them well, be happy, and enjoy the blessings of liberty their service and sacrifice have bought. Although we take pause today to remember their absence, we must also take this day to celebrate the very liberty they have secured.
Memorial Day should be a "happy" day, the same as Easter. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, yet we rejoice in the promise of chocolate rabbits, only six more weeks till spring (if Christ came out of the tomb and saw his shadow) and painted eggs, god-awfully early church services, plastic grass, and kids on a blood-sugar bender. We remember the sacrifice, and the cost, of the loss of friends and family on this day. I remember Josh wearing a cape and boxer shorts and little else, standing in the Kuwaiti desert and saluting passing vehicles. I remember sharing stories and fixing the world’s problems over barbeque and beer with Dan. I remember Gary creatively counseling another lieutenant who just refused to “get it.” I remember these men fondly, and am thankful to wear the same uniform, to serve the same nation, and to carry forward where they cannot.
Dan, Josh, and Gary can't spend this day, or any other day with their families, or among us, and we are a poorer nation because of that. I miss them, but today I pay special attention to their absence, and jealously guard my time with my family. We will have a happy day, because my friends, my mentors, my brothers have already paid for it, in advance, with interest.
I do not mean to suggest that it is proper to tell a recent widow to have a “Happy” Memorial Day. I know the families of the fallen, and especially the recently fallen, spend this day in grief, but they spend this day remembering none the less. They will, in time, first recall the good things, the joys and happiness, the special days; and will lock away the days which hurt the most. These families, these survivors, have something their warriors no longer have… time. They have time to grieve, time to mourn, and time to heal. They will, soon enough, spend their memorial days at family barbeques, pool openings, amusement parks, and all manner of fun and happy occasions.
On Memorial Day, these families, mine and hopefully yours, will also pause to remember all of the joyful times we spent with those who have stood their final muster, and then we too, will go on living, and have a happy Memorial Day.
To the God in Man displayed -- Where'er we see that Birth, Be love and understanding paid As never yet on earth!
To the Spirit that moves in Man, On Whom all worlds depend, Be Glory since our world began And service to the end!
Final stanzas, The Choice, Rudyard Kipling
From a speech in 2011:
On this day of memory, I want to introduce you to some of the most recent, who have special meaning to me.
Major Mathew Schram gave his life this day in 2003. He was the colleague and friend of someone I give thanks to be able to call friend. On this day, he led a convoy in Iraq and when it came under attack, he and his driver personally counterattacked to a plan they had worked out in advance. Their action caused the enemy to flee; however, Major Schram was killed in the process. It is worth noting that aside from him, no one else died because of his plan and prompt action. Two other soldiers were wounded, one of whom, his driver, continued the mission. It is also well worth noting that the convoy was being followed by a vehicle with a reporter for a major weekly magazine. When the ambush broke, they turned to flee and did so – something that would not have been possible if not for Major Schram’s action and sacrifice. It is also worth noting that the reporter and magazine never reported on this, as it wasn’t news that a good and better man died to save his life. From all I have heard of Mat Schram, I do wish I could have met him and known him. I remember him this day.
Specialist Marieo Guerrero, Captain Anthony Palermo, Private First Class Damian Lopez, and Specialist Ryan Dallam died in 2007 in West Rasheed, Iraq. They were part of the catalyst for my first embed to Iraq, and also the reason that Combat Outpost Ellis became the lynchpin for bringing the Anbar Awakening into the area southwest of Baghdad – and into Baghdad itself. Their colleagues and friends shared some of their stories with me, and I wish I could do more to bring them to life for you this day. Captain Palermo inspired the men who served under him, including those that stepped up when he fell to enemy action. The stories I heard of all these men brought forth smiles, laughter, and some tears. Specialist Guerrero died in March, and the rest on one dark day in April to a massive IED.
Lance Corporal Jeremy W. Burris is someone I particularly want to remember this day. His story, to my mind, exemplifies the special people we are here to remember. I can’t say I knew him, for I met him only in passing out at Al Qa’im on the Syrian border. Like most Marines I’ve met, he was full of – life.
He was one of a small horde of Marines to whom I was introduced in a blur of faces and names. He went out on a patrol, one on which I wanted to go on but couldn’t. While out, his vehicle was hit by an IED. Like any good Marine, he responded and got his buddies out to safety. There, he treated them for their injuries. Realizing that there were items in the vehicle that would make his brothers more comfortable and otherwise help, he went back. It was then that the second IED was detonated.
Afterwards, I learned more about him, those things I did not get a chance to learn from him. He had a love of music, an appreciation of the opposite sex, drive, and energy. He was in many ways, a very typical young man, who very atypically volunteered to serve his country in time of war. He, like all who currently serve, knew what they were doing, knew the risks, and still stepped forward and chose to join. I think of him often, and am glad I can share that very small bit of him I have learned with you this day.
Today is a day of remembrance. It is a day to honor those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. It is a day to give most profound thanks to whatever God you worship, that such have walked and do walk among us and, stepped up to the call.
They are our parents, our children, our husbands, our wives, our friends. They fight for us this day, as generations before did for them. Next year, we will have more to remember, but we should not remember in sorrow, but with pride, thanks, and appreciation for them and for their sacrifice. One they have chosen to make, by knowingly volunteering in time of war, and we should do nothing to belittle that choice and the costly gift they have willingly laid on the altar of freedom.
No, this is not a day of sales, vacations, and parties. That said, in my far to brief journeys with them, I have met none that would find it wrong to be remembered in the happy setting of a barbecue or cook out. In fact, many of them would appreciate it, for they would know that you have the freedom to choose what to eat, when to eat, and to live your lives with liberty because of them and their sacrifice. So, eat a bite of good food for them, and raise a toast to them with your libation of choice.
Let us remember them, and give thanks for them, this day.
NRA Life of Duty: Memorial Day Tribute - Remembering the Men of the Gambier Bay
Posted By Blackfive
Below is the NRA Life of Duty's Memorial Day Tribute featuring Norman St. Germain – Seaman First Class, USS Gambier Bay who spent 47 hours in the shark-infested waters of Leyte Gulf after his ship was sunk during WWII.
All I ever wanted to do was fly Leave this world and live in the sky I left the C130 out of Fort Worth town I go up some days I don't wanna come down
Well I fly that plane called the Angel Flight Come on brother you're with me tonight Between Heaven and earth you're never alone On the Angel Flight Come on brother I'm taking you home
I love my family and I love this land But tonight this flight's for another man We do what we do because we heard the call Some gave a little, but he gave it all
I fly that plane called the Angel Flight Come on brother you're with me tonight (Come on brother you're with me tonight) Between Heaven and earth you're never alone On the Angel Flight Come on brother I'm taking you home Come on brother I'm taking you home
Well the cockpit's quiet and the stars are bright. Feels kinda like church in here tonight It don't matter where we touch down On the Angel Flight its sacred ground
I fly that plane called the Angel Flight Gotta hero riding with us tonight Between Heaven and earth you're never alone On the Angel Flight Come on brother I'm taking you home Come on brother I'm taking you home Come on brother I'm taking you home Come on brother I'm taking you home
Ensuring Our Future By the Sacrifice of Their Tomorrows
Posted By Blackfive
On Memorial Day, ten years ago, my friend, Major Mathew Schram, counter-attacked sixteen Iraqi insurgents who tried to kill everyone in Major Schram’s convoy. Mat rushed up into the ambushers, fighting back and calling for help.
Mat died fighting, but not before he did what he set out to do – disrupt the ambush and save his soldiers.
Mat always did everything the right way. As a brother-in-arms and a competitive peer, I wanted to hate that about him. But after getting to know Mat, you couldn’t help but like him.
Mat would never let anyone down. On the last day of his life, he saved everyone but himself. While shocked and sorrowful at the news of his death, not one of Mat’s friends were surprised that, even in dying, Mat succeeded.
On this Memorial Day, nine years later, while it’s true that I’ll be surrounded by many who won’t appreciate Mat’s sacrifice, there are those that do. Gold Star families - the parents and families of those who gave all also sacrificed for our country in a tremendous way. To lose a son or daughter, a mother or father, a sister or brother, is a loss so great that no words exist to ease the grief and anguish they feel. To all the Gold Star parents, spouses, and family members “May God Bless You!”
Thinking about Mat Schram, I know that he would have been a great husband and father. Every day, I know that he would have been a better father than me. And most days, I try to live up to his sacrifice.
On Memorial Day, when not grilling bratwurst or watching a parade, I’ll be making my daughter laugh with my antics on horseback and I’ll be encouraging my son at his swim meet. Being a good “daddy” is the best way that I know to honor all of my friends who’ve given their lives in our defense. That’s the best way to honor the sacrifice of so many for our freedom – ensuring that our future is worthy of the sacrifice of their tomorrows.
I know that’s what my friend Mat would have wanted me to do.
I have been seeing alot written here and on Facebook about how this weekend is not the annual rite of passage to honor your new found love of charcoal and smoked foods.
All of my brothers here have done a marvelous job of telling the story of Memorial Day and how it means different things to us and to others, but to me, it IS about the barbecue.
Is there anyone here that wouldn't want to have a barbecue where Basil Plumley, John Basilone, Gary Gordon, Randy Shugart, Hal Moore, Matt Ridgeway, James Stockdale or Michael Murphy all showed up? All of them would make a "who's who" list of men I would be honored to sit around my firepit and pass out cheeseburgers and ribs off of my grill to in those red drive thru baskets you can still get at old school burger joints as we share cheap cold beer and ask who brought the POG wearing the "HALO" T-Shirt. Later on over mouthfuls of Mrs. Deebow's pretzel rolls that I am using for sliders and the last of the bleu cheese potato salad, we could spend our time trying not to choke as we tell one hilarious war story after another; all starting with the phrase "and there we were...."
Then, after the sun went down, and we sat quietly around a fire as warriors are apt to do with their cigars and their libations; we would toast our lost comrades and commiserate on what would have been, had it not been for that fateful day; and we would do as General Patton said. We would thank God that men of their character had lived at all. I would feel even more blessed that those men made the choice of a life spent defending something they felt deeply about.
I can think of no better way to honor men like SGM Basil Plumley, Manila John Basilone, MSG Gary Gordon, MSG Randy Shugart, Col. Hal Moore, Gen. Matt Ridgeway, Adm. James Stockdale or Lt. Michael Murphy, Sergeant Earl Werner, Maj. Larry Bauguess, Sergeant Bernard Deghand and the countless many more names just like them who now stand eternal guard in the gardens of stone around the world than to drink, eat, make merry and live the freedom that they have worked so hard to give me.
I toast my freedom in your honor and I live everyday attempting to suck the very marrow out of the freedom for which you have paid so dearly. Thank you sirs; although saying that just seems as if it isn't enough.
Day Is Done, Gone the Sun, From the Earth, From the Hill, From the Sky, All Is Well, Safely Rest, God Is Nigh
When Taps is played at dusk, it has a completely different meaning than when Taps is played during the day. No soldier really wants to hear it played during daylight. For when the bugle plays Taps in the daylight...that means a soldier has fallen...There is a belief among some that Taps is the clarion call to open the gates of heaven for the fallen warrior and letting them know to "Safely Rest"...
Of course, Memorial Day is about remembering the sacrifices that our military men and women have made over the last 237 years. We are still a young nation, but one that has made many sacrifices to remain free. We should also take time to remember the families who have lost loved ones.
We have focused on just a few of the fallen over the last few years. I've lost good friends during the War on Terror. And I write about the others to ensure that we don't forget their sacrifices - I do that for me as much as for anybody.
I can't speak for the friends of the many others who have fallen, but for Mat, Cooter, and Mikey, I can say this:
It is important to remember them, and it is just as important to enjoy yourself this weekend. To spend time with your family and friends. Have a beer while grilling Wisconsin brats (Schram-bo!) in the backyard while watching your kids play tag.
What better assurance to them that they did not die in vain?
Enjoying your freedom and understanding it's value is the best way to honor the sacrifices of my friends.
That's the way they'd want you to spend Memorial Day.
Remembering them, and being a good friend, father, and an American is the best way that I can honor their memory.
I'll close with this heartfelt letter, written by Rick Kennedy, that I received via the late and great Corporal Seamus about Taylor Prazynski - a Marine who was buried at Arlington eight years ago.
On Saturday morning May 21st I flew to Washington, D.C to meet my daughter Mary with grandchildren Calista and Lindsey, and her husband Joe Teller to drive with them to Chesterfield Virginia to attend a ballet recital for Callie that evening. Joe and Mary were in Washington for the burial services of Lance Corporal Taylor Prazynski USMC the 20 year old son of Joe’s cousin John Prazynski. Taylor was killed by enemy fire in Fallujah on May 9th while serving in combat with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment, and 2nd Marine Division. Mary and Joe, along with 50 other family members attended the burial service for Taylor on Friday at Arlington National Cemetery, and when I met them they remained emotionally overwhelmed and forever moved by the elegant display of military reverence, and efficiency at Arlington. They were deeply saddened by the loss of this young Marine.
Earlier in the week Taylor’s body arrived at the Greater Cincinnati Airport by commercial jet. All passengers were instructed to remain on the plane until Taylor’s body was removed by a contingent of Marines. A military helicopter followed the Marine vehicle as it motored to the funeral parlor. Police and fire trucks were stationed at the overpasses and along the highway and saluted at Taylor passed by. At the funeral parlor no civilian was allowed to touch the body. The Marines prepared the deceased...A Marine color guard followed by a rider less horse accompanied Taylor’s body down Ohio Highway 4 for funeral services at Fairfield High School gym. Over 1500 people were in attendance of the funeral service at the school where the young Marine graduated in 2003, and played football and ran track. Pastor Dave Workman of the Vineyard Community Church presided. He gave a sterling tribute to this fallen hero that gave his life to his country. The pastor praised Taylor for his work with the church’s youth group, and his volunteer work with a multiple-disabilities class while in high school.
At Arlington on May 20th, the seven pall bearers dressed resplendent in the Marine dress blues uniform marched with the flag draped casket with military precision. When they reached the gravesite they abruptly raised the casket above their shoulders for 30 long seconds, giving the fallen Marine salute, and then rested the casket on its conveyor belt support over the grave. The military chaplain in civilian clothes gave the last rites, and presented the family Taylor’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart Medal.
All seven Marines removed the American Flag from the casket. They raised the stars and stripes above the casket pulling the flag rigid like a drum. Then they tightly folded the flag step by step in a triangle with the ends tucked firmly in place. One of the Marines did an about face and presented the flag to the Marine Sergeant standing alone to the rear of the casket, and saluted the flag.. The Marine in charge carrying the flag proceeded to the seat of the father John Prazynski. The Marine knelt down and bowed his head and presented the flag to the grieving father as the final gesture of sympathy and appreciation by the United States Marine Corps for the brave service of this young Marine.
Seven Marines standing away from the proceedings fired their rifles in three volleys representing a 21 gun salute, and you could hear muffled screams of sorrow from the youth in attendance as a lone bugler in Marine dress blues played the sad haunting sound of “Taps’ that echoed across the green rolling plains of Arlington on to the endless stream of white stones in this section called” Iraqi Freedom”. This was the Marines way of sending a signal to God to open the gates of Heaven for the arrival of [Corporal] Prazynski who gave his life for his country and our fight against terror throughout the world.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.