Good afternoon and thank you for being part of this honorable occasion.
Today is not so much about the dedication of this memorial to our brothers,
as it is about their dedication; dedication to Duty and Country.
Use you imagination and visualize if you will:
It’s the mid 1950’s. There is a little boy, 6, 7, maybe 8 years old in front of your house. He’s wearing a pair of blue-jeans with the large folded up cuff, a pair of black and white high-top Converse tennis shoes and a plain white T-shirt. He’s going to ride his two wheel bike for the first time today. He gets on and pushes himself away. He’s trying to pedal, balance and steer all at the same time. The bike is weaving back and forth and away he goes. Hold that thought for a few minutes.
In a few minutes when we unveil their Memorial, you will see 149 names etched in granite. Names of those brave young soldiers from Macomb County who laid down their lives for their Country. But, when you leave here today, take with you the knowledge and understanding that these are not just names on a wall; they are that little boy you just envisioned.
They are those little boys that played on your block, rode their bikes, played little league; they even played Army, having been the first generation after World War II. Some of them probably even delivered newspapers to your house. They went to elementary, junior high and high school with us. Later, they cruised Gratiot and hung around at places like A & W, McDonalds, Top Hats, Jupiter’s, Midgens and the Chatter Box.
They were sons, brothers, grandsons, nephews, cousins and friends. They were boyfriends, some were husbands and some were already fathers.
When they were called by their Country, they raised their right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. An awesome responsibility for someone who only eleven or twelve years earlier was learning to ride his bike in front of your house.
They went away to places named Fort Knox, Camp Lejune, Great Lakes Naval, Lacklen Air Base and so on. They learned about the low crawl, 7.62, their gig line, spit shine and the Code of Conduct. In a short period of time, those little boys who were learning to ride their bikes not too long before became soldiers.
They came home on leave, Orders in hand. They enjoyed Mom’s home cooking once again and spent time with Dad. They partied with family and friends before leaving for their assigned destination, or should I say destiny, Vietnam.
It’s been said that some had a premonition that they would not return; most of those 149 were certain they would. They said their good-bye’s and they were gone.
They died on hot sunny days, dark terrifying nights and in the downpour of monsoons. They died in places called Pleiku, AnLoc, IaDrang and Khe Sanh.
Some cried out for their Mothers before they died as soldier’s often do. Most had no chance to. Be assured, all were brave in their last moments.
They came home not to a hero’s welcome but in most cases to a simple family and friend’s funeral. There was the customary folded flag and the twenty-one gun salute. The memories of them are kept in the hearts of family and friends and those of us who served with them. There was no grateful nation.
Today we change that. The dedication of this Memorial will assure that who they were and what they gave when called by their Country will live on. There is a line from a poem; it reads “The dead live on forever in the living”.
It is our promise, our responsibility to preserve the memories of these 149 boys who became soldiers and were gone from us so quickly.
We should remember all who have worn the uniform and served our Country and protected our Freedoms. On the back of the Field Cross is a quote from L/Cpl E.L. “Tim” Craft who fought at Khe Sanh in 1968 during the Siege. Craft says “For those who will fight for it…Freedom… has a flavor the protected shall never know.”
It is the soldier who defends and protects our Freedoms and they do it knowingly with their lives.
Remember these 149 brave soldiers from Macomb County who paid the ultimate price, and tell others about this Memorial to them so that they will come to know who they were and what they gave. They gave all their tomorrows for our todays.
THAT IS WHO THEY WERE.
Written and Presented by:
(US Army 1966 - 1968)