America understands what it takes to achieve and protect freedom. We don’t invade other countries to conquer them.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” ~Jesus (John 15:13)
Freedom in America started with the Revolutionary War.
The inscription at the Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Marker in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania reads “Near this spot, lies Lieutenant John Waterman, died April 23, 1778, whose grave alone of all his comrades was marked.” Some 2,000 Continental soldiers died at Valley Forge or in distant hospitals. Most expired not in the dead cold of winter, but in the spring, when influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery more than decimated the camp. Waterman died during this time. His lonely gravestone on the grand parade ground was marked simply, “JW 1778.” He was later identified by his initials as a Rhode Island officer.
Our commitment to freedom continued in the Civil War. Perhaps no war like it strained our commitment to freedom and liberty.
In Grafton National Cemetery, Grafton, West Virginia rests Private Thornesberry Bailey Brown, believed to be the first Union casualty of the Civil War. Brown mustered into service in Company B, 2nd Virginia Infantry, and served under Captain George R. Latham as part of the “Grafton Guards.” On May 22, 1861, near present-day Grafton, a Confederate sentry ordered Brown to halt. Brown refused and shot the sentry in the ear. The sentry returned fire, shooting Brown in the heart.
World War I showed the need to defend liberty on the soil of other countries.
At Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York lies Sgt. Wilbur E. Colyer. Served in the U.S. Army in World War I and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery near Verdun, France, on October 9, 1918. His citation reads “Volunteering with 2 other soldiers to locate machinegun nests, Sgt. Colyer advanced on the hostile positions to a point where he was half surrounded by the nests, which were in ambush. He killed the gunner of one gun with a captured German grenade and then turned this gun on the other nests silencing all of them before he returned to his platoon. He was later killed in action.”
My dad fought in World War II. He survived but so many didn’t. What a sacrifice they all made for freedom.
Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee is the final resting place of Cornelia Fort. Nashville’s first woman flight instructor, she was giving a flying lesson as a civilian instructor over Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941 and witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. Fort was the second woman to join the Woman’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, which ferried planes to free up male pilots for combat assignments. She was the first WAFS pilot to die in the line of duty. Cornelia Fort was killed while ferrying a BT-13 Valiant trainer when it collided with another plane over Texas on March 21, 1943.
Korea continued our need to help others protect freedom. We still help in Korea today. The fight goes on.
On April 5 1951, Naval Hospitalman Richard D. Wert was serving with the Marines as they cleared North Korean guerrillas from rural areas of South Korea and as they aided in driving the enemy beyond the Thirty-Eighth Parallel. While with the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines during an attack on Chinese Communist forces, De Wert continually rejected medical treatment for his wounds to provide first aid to fallen marines. Under intense fire he provided treatment to four marines, De Wert was killed in action while tending to an injured comrade. The Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient was originally buried in Korea, re-interred at the Woodlawn National Cemetery, Elmira, N.Y, but in 1987 upon request from his family, was laid to rest in his home where his grave can be found in section 5 at the Massachusetts’s National Cemetery in Bourne.
With Vietnam, war became real to my generation. We all know many who didn’t return.
At Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Oakville, Missouri you can find Air Force Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who served in the 8th Special Operations Squadron. He was shot down and killed while piloting his A-37B Dragonfly aircraft in the vicinity of An Loc, in South Vietnam. His remains were buried in Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of The Unknowns as an unidentified soldier from the Vietnam War. After petitioning the United States Government for permission, his family had his body exhumed. DNA tests confirmed that the previously unknown soldier was, in fact, Michael Blassie.
September 11 propelled us into a new kind of war, the war on terror. It continues today with sacrifices made daily.
Staff Sgt. James M. Christen of Loomis, California died in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his vehicle with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, on his third deployment overseas. Sgt. Christen previously served two tours in Iraq. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Staff Sgt. James Christen now rests with many of his comrades from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan in Section 60, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.