During the Korean War, my grandpa served as a captain of the Third Combat Engineer Battalion. Towards the end of the war, in 1951, he was attempting to hold off the main body of an enemy division from crossing a road until reinforcements could arrive. But as enemy strength built up, part of his company began fleeing down the road in retreat. As my grandpa chased after his frightened troops, a bullet passed through both of his legs, leaving him bleeding in the trenches and fully exposed to the enemy.
To the shouts of "Man down!" echoing all around him, medical aids rushed to his side and tried to get him out of there.
But he refused.
He insisted that he hold position and stay with his men and fight until he was assured that the troops would hold. He would rather have died serving his country than leave his men unprotected.
After he was certain that the line would hold, he obtained a vehicle with another officer and they drove after the frightened troops who were fleeing to the mountains. When he was able to cut them off, he propped himself up against the truck and ordered his men to return back to enemy lines and fight. With the use of his legs lost, he returned to battle in the vehicle and remained there until reinforcements arrived.
My grandpa survived that war, just as he had survived World War II. He survived long enough to chase his grandchildren and great-grandchild around, and when he died the day before my 29th birthday it was a great loss indeed. Not just to his family and friends, but also to his country. The war that he fought in might be considered the Forgotten War, but certainly his service and valor continue to be remembered by many.
I remember also the other men and women who have served or are serving in the armed forces. I remember that though I may debate the rationality of today's war in the middle east, I cannot deny the reality of the danger our soldiers face.
Today I remember. Today I say thank you. Today I hope is a day that brings our soldiers that much closer to returning home.
(Thank you to my little brother Jacob for doing most of the write-up of my grandpa's story. I was so proud of you when you read it at his funeral.)
(Illustration at top of the post courtesy of Cameron Cardow via Slate.com)