More than 1,280,000 Americans have died in war since the American Revolutionary War. Memorial Day is a time to remember not only these soldiers, sailors, pilots, and marines, but also ALL American military personnel who have died while in service of their country.
Let's start by clearly defining what Memorial Day is. I've heard many versions of what it is ... I've even heard it confused with Veteran's Day. Memorial Day is an American holiday used to remember the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead. Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday during the month of May. Originating after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers (both sides!) who died during the Civil War, it was originally called Decoration Day. Traditionally folks put flowers and other decorations on soldiers' graves. This was the start of Decoration Day.
Over time, the name changed from Decoration to Memorial. Then in 1967 it was officially changed to Memorial Day and also extended to recognize and honor all military men and women who died while serving (instead of just the Civil War). The holiday was celebrated on May 30th, but in 1968 Congress passed the "Uniform Monday Holiday Act," and Memorial Day was one of the holidays moved from its traditional date to a specified Monday. This was done to make convenient three-day weekends.
Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. That said, the absolute definition seems to include anyone who dies during military service. For this reason, I thought I would honor a true American hero (perhaps the greatest hero of all time), Audie Murphy. Many of you may be saying, "Audie who?"
Audie Leon Murphy (June 20, 1924 - May 28, 1971) started in the Army as a private and died a Major in the Army reserve.
Audie is recognized as the most decorated person in World War II. He received 33 awards and decorations (including the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star). Also, he received every decoration the United States has to offer for valor (some of them more than once). Audie killed more than 240 of the enemy during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor (the United States of America's highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty) for his fearless acts in the battle of Holtzwihr, France on January 26, 1945.
Outnumbered and nearly defeated, Audie climbed on top of a tank destroyer which was full of ammunition, gasoline, and completely engulfed in fire! The tank destroyer was literally expected to explode at any moment. From atop the flaming, smoking heap he ordered his unit to withdraw and was the only soldier to remain. He single-handedly used a .50 caliber machine gun (after his M1 Carbine ran out of ammunition) and fought off six German tanks and literally hundreds of foot soldiers. The mass of molten metal was hit twice by enemy artillery and Murphy was near blown apart, yet he remained and fought the enemy until they retreated!
Audie Murphy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. (Section 46, headstone number 46-366-11). It is the second most-visited grave site in Arlington (only President John F. Kennedy's grave receives more visitors).
I know that Audie Murphy did not die while at war ... However, he is one of the greatest war heroes to ever live. And, he is precisely what I think of when I close my eyes and remain in a moment of silence in memory of my fallen brothers and sisters on this special day. Please take a moment with me now ... One minute out of your life ... To bow your head, close your eyes, remain silent, and mentally remember those Americans who have fought and died in service of this great nation. They died fighting for YOU and ME! US! The US of America!
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for listening to this patriot rant. I love you all.