And once again we will be bombarded with articles about the start of the “summer retail season,” advertisements for “GIANT Memorial Day Sale,” and a page in many newspapers for memorial messages, remembering Great Aunt Sadie or Cousin John’s fatal fishing accident. Almost assuredly, someone will wish me a “Happy Memorial Day,” confusing it with Veterans’ Day.
And I will grit my teeth and march on. Memorial Day is not about sales and Sales. It is a day on which we remember our honored dead who have given their all for our Nation. For some privileged few of us, it is the special day the Nation remembers those of whom we think every day: the men we were with when we forever put away our youth and became warriors and a band of brothers.
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”
For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon (1914)
In Henry V, Shakespeare’s portrayal of “Harry the King” lays out what for the combat veteran is the true meaning of Memorial Day.
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
In Vietnam, my 18 year old radio operator, himself a poet, once told me, “Remember their names, Lieutenant. They ain’t really dead so long as we remember their names.” Here, then, are my names:
Classmates from Basic Class 12-68
2dLt Charles “Chip” Pilkington, USMCR
2dLt James “Jay” Simms, USMCR
2dLt Mike McCormick, USMCR
2dLt Mike Quinn, USMCR
2dLt Roy Phillips, USMCR
2dLt Bob Christian, USMCR
From Company C, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division ("The Old Breed")
2dLt Fred Andrew Hartman, Jr. USMCR (Chip was also in BC 12-68)
PFC Don Lucas, USMC
PFC Rich Zimmerman, USMC
LCpl Ernie Tews, USMC
PFC Jimmy Phipps, USMC (Medal of Honor) (Phipps was a combat engineer from Bravo Company, 1st Engineer Battalion, attached to Charlie Company 1/5 at the time of his gallant sacrifice.)
LCpl Barry Unfried, USMC
PFC Jimmy Wandro, USMC
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, indeed . . . Semper Fidelis..