As a veteran with a family, a family where my wife was an Air Force widow when I met her, I think the words of John Milton are applicable to any Memorial Day,
They also serve who only stand and wait.We should not forget that it isn't just the Servicemen who have gone before us, but also those they left behind.
There is also the question of those civilians who have died in the service of our nation. There is Anthropologist Paula Loyd, who died on 7 January 2009, two days shy of her 37th birthday. She was serving in Afghanistan on a Human Terrain Team, helping soldiers understand the culture in which they are immersed. An older Afghani man in the village where she was working doused her with gasoline and set her on fire. Ms Loyd had a degree from Wellesley College and a Masters Degree from Georgetown. She gave the last full measure.
This larger issue of the kind of wars we are in today—Counter-Insurgency—and the important roles played by civilians, lead to a discussion in another venue on whether civilians who die while serving in a hostile environment should be afforded burial in Arlington Cemetery. The discussion was hot and heavy and there was no consensus. One factor, of course, is that Arlington is filling up since the day when Army Quartermaster General Montgomery C Meigs elected to bury Union War Dead in the land below Robert E Lee's pre-Civil War home.
Arlington Cemetery is an interesting place and those who are buried there are interesting also, including nine Canadians who were awarded the Medal of Honor by our nation.
For me, today is a day to remember not only those who gave the last full measure, whether in peace or war, but their families. I previously mentioned my wife being a widow. Her first husband, Robert Harlan, died during a training accident, half way around the world, off Okinawa. His unit was there so the local air defense squadron could deploy to Southeast Asia in 1965, in case North Viet-nam decided to fly over the Republic of Viet-nam.
One of my Academy roommates, Alan Trent, died flying close air support in South Viet-nam. Alan was from Ohio. The same for a roommate from Pilot Training, Aado Kommendant. Aado was originally from Estonia, born during the Second World War, but his family escaped to the United States.
Aado died while both of us were on our first tours. He was flying out of a different base. My classmate Ray Salzarulo also died in the second half of 1966, leaving a widow back home. Ray and I went to F-4 training together, at MacDill AFB. And my classmate Karl Richter died flying combat missions in Southeast Asia. Karl and I sat next to each other in Electrical Engineering and we were in the same pilot training class at Craig AFB. Regarding seating in EE, we were assigned seats by academic performance in each particular subject and both Karl and I were in the back row of the last section.
And others I remember on this Memorial Day.
Regards — Cliff