Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

May 28, 2013

Honored for Memorial Day opportunity

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Being asked by the American Legion and Auxiliary to give the address for Memorial Day is an honor.

It is also a time of some deep thinking about what to talk about. If you ask four others what they would be interested in hearing you would probably get as many answers. It doesn’t matter anyhow. It’s all up to the speaker and the only way to prepare for the event is to speak from the heart.

On my way from the north end of the city to South Park Cemetery, I felt a great sense of pride in my city. Flags were flying at many homes and the rows of flags on the square caused my eyes to get moist.  Sure, I am appreciative of every single person that has served our country but one of those flags represents the service of my husband James F. Smith. Last year, instead of having the Optimist Club put the flag in my front yard, I decided to have them put it on the square. I’m sure that Jim would approve. I love this project of the Optimist Club.

This year I quoted in my address, as best as I could remember, from something that veteran Bill Hunter said in one of his Memorial Day addresses. I especially remembered what he said that year because it finally made some sense in an ever changing world filled with individuals that would like to destroy us. Not a country wanting to destroy us as had been the case before, but of malicious individuals that simply hate us.

I told of something important I’d learned about modern warfare that former Combat Engineer and then Combat Medic Phillip Clark taught me when interviewing him for a column. Phillip did three tours in Iraq. He explained how modern wars are usually no longer a matter of the well known battles that most of us older folks have always heard about, and in which many took part. Most of us can recall reading about some of the deadly battlefields from the Civil War. In many cases we know of an ancestor that fought in some of those battles. The same goes for World War I and World War II in the Pacific and in Europe. The Korean War and the Vietnam War battles are still familiar to those of us who only read about them, and very much remembered by those that took part in them.

I mentioned a little about the differences in weapons. There are some good points and some bad points about that. We certainly have become more efficient at killing but, unfortunately, so has the enemy. Are there advantages in having a modern weapon that can fire 20 rounds in three seconds compared to those of yesterday that fired 15 rounds in one minute? Of course, but we would hope that there will be no need to speed them up even more.

I also read part of a poem that American Legion Service Officer Tom Imel had shared with me. It was written by a veteran of the Korean War who was beginning to believe that we, as Americans, were starting to forget about honoring our veterans on Memorial Day. He thought it important that we keep Memorial Day alive for those that rest in hallowed ground, surrounded by their comrades when we can still hear the soft sound of Taps echoing the voices from the past.

I know that my husband, who took part in the battles of Guadalcanal (campaign), Tarawa, Saipan and Tinian, would never complain in any way about anything he endured during World War II because he knew that he was one of the lucky ones. So many of his friends would never have the opportunity to marry, have and raise children, buy their first home, enjoy ball games or any of the other pleasures of just being alive.

So what I tried to do in the address for Memorial Day was to show that although everything has changed, the kind of warfare, the kind of weapons used, those who fought for our freedom in any war from World War I through the war in Afghanistan have not changed at all. They still think the same way. Although I quoted a veteran of all those wars, any of them could have been interchanged. They all spoke of fear, but also of determination to do their job.

I am so thankful that we continue, and I hope always will, to recognize  Memorial Day because gives us a chance to say Thank You to those that served in the Armed Forces at any time. No, we won’t forget.