Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Reposted  from an earlier version:

A decade before I was born 2,400 American service men and women perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor, drawing us into a global conflict. By the end of World War II that number would exceed 400,000.

Not to be confused with Veterans Day, which is a tribute to all who have served our nation, Memorial Day commemorates those who have died serving their country. Memorial Day took root during the Civil War (early 1860's) as Decoration Day, when local townspeople, mostly women decorated soldiers' graves.

The name Memorial Day gained popularity after World War II and was made official by Congress in 1967. A year later Congress moved it to the last Monday of May. Now some of us only think of it as a time to get a deal on a mattress, watch the Indy 500 and barbeque hot dogs and chicken wings.

Tom Brokaw describes the people who lived through The Great Depression and then went on to fight in World War II as the The Greatest Generation. Having met many of those who returned from that war, I don't see how anyone could refute that label.

Survivors of World War II are a national treasure and they are leaving us at about 1,000 per day. Soon, there will be none left.

Not-for-profit groups like Honor Flight and Vets Roll bring World War II veterans to Washington, DC to visit the memorials and tributes to those who may well have saved the world from tyranny.

It is through these groups that I have met amazing men and women and through those still left, I have been afforded glimpses into the lives and deaths of their fallen comrades.

One can only imagine an America where those 400,000 would have passed on their strength, their principles, their humility and their humanity.  An America in which those fallen would have participated in the growth of their nation.

Before I go to zappos. com today to check out Memorial Day specials, I'm going to take a moment to think about some of those lost during that horrific time in human history.  Not all of them, that would be overwhelming.

One of the soldiers I'm going to think about is a guy named John who landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day with the 29th Infantry Division.

As his landing craft's ramp was lowered, John turned to his best friend, John Chrenka and warned him to be careful.  John Chrenka survived that day and received a Silver Star.  Chrenka's friend, the other John on his left was killed moments after stepping off the ramp, as was the soldier on Chrenka's right.

Listening to Chrenka re-live that day, you know that it is as clear in his mind as if it happened yesterday.

It is through John Chrenka and others re-telling those moments that keep the memory of their fallen comrades alive. It is through their re-telling of those moments that we can get to know, just a little some of those who sacrificed their lives for ours.

Sometimes I wonder what they would think if they could see us now. Would they think it was all worth it?

Life can be complicated, but at the end of the day (or the beginning), can we look in the mirror and justify those sacrifices? I guess I'm going to have to think about that, as well.

To find out more about the groups mentioned above, go to Honor Flight or Vets Roll

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    John Chrenka is my great uncle. He and my father had a falling out years ago. I would really like to contact him. If you have any information on how I could do that, I would really appreciate it.

  • I met John at an Army Reserve function where CMOH recipient Sal Guinta was the honored guest. He got there somehow through the Illinois Army Reserves. I'd start with them. In the mean time, I'll search through my stuff and see if I can find anything.

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