In our nation’s history, we have lost over 1.3 million lives in our armed forces. On this Memorial Day, we remember all those men and women who served this country with distinction and gave above and beyond what any man or woman should ever have to give. We remember those lives given so others on our soil and around the world may live. But the sad truth is we have forgotten so many.
We forget many men and women who were lost in acts of war that were not in the Army or Navy. These individuals may never have served a day of their lives in the Marine Corp or Air Force or even the Coast Guard. We forget the individuals that willing served their community and country in a civilian capacity.
As the years have past, we have forgotten the nearly ten thousand Merchant Marines killed during World War II. One out of every twenty-six mariners died in the line of duty. If it had not been for the fleet of merchant ships and the men and women that served aboard them as part of the U.S. Merchant Mariner fleet, the Allied forces serving in Europe, the Pacific and in Africa would certainly have lost the war. These were civilian volunteers that knew they were putting their lives on the line, yet served anyway. These men and women should not be forgotten today.
We should remember the 68 civilians killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Among the many civilians that sacrificed so much were several federal government employees such as Philip Ward Eldred, 36, who was working at Hickam Field. He had left his wife’s side that morning to help whom ever he could during the attack. His name and the names of others, including three Honolulu firefighters, are not ones we tend to remember on a day when we should be taking time to remember all of those that gave of themselves to serve this country.
How often do we stop on Memorial Day and remember the lives of the 72 police officers and 343 firefighters. Why does their sacrifice go unnoticed today?
Why does the sacrifice of people like Richard Guadagno, an officer with U.S. Fish and Wildlife go forgotten? This was a man that took his job, protecting the wild spaces of this country, seriously. It was that dedication that explains his actions on September 11th, 2001.
Robert was one of the heroes of Flight 93. He and several others knew the stakes were high but refused to sit back. The act of attempting to retake the cockpit was an act of unparalleled bravery.
People like Yamel Merino and Richard Pearlman are among the brave men and women we also should be remembering. Yamel was a twenty four year old EMT and single mother to her eight year old son. She wasn’t a member of the FDNY but a three-year veteran of MetroCare Ambulance Service. James O’Connor, MetroCare vice president, stated in response to her death “Yamel never refused an assignment or request. ... It happened because Yamel was where she wanted to be, in the middle of the biggest attack in our country’s history, helping strangers,”
Richard Pearlman was dedicated to and had a huge heart for the calling that found him at an early age. He was only 18 years old and was a volunteer for Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corp. in Queens, New York. He had started his career in EMS as a dispatcher at the age of 14. He was delivering paperwork to 1 Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan on the September morning when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. Richard wasn’t even a certified EMT yet, but that didn’t stop him from catching a ride with a police officer responding to the scene and then assisting with patient care among the chaos and falling burning debris. He was on the ground in the South Tower tending to patients when the tower fell.
Just as each soldier that walks into battle and gives his or her life as the ultimate sacrifice, these civilian men and women were mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. They all left someone behind. Should we not begin to recognize that the sacrifice these men and women have given is equal to that of each and every soldier lost in combat? Can we honestly go about our Memorial Day observances and not remember these lives?
Today I remember them!
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