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Putting Memorial Day into the proper perspective

From A to Zowie

Putting Memorial Day into the proper perspective

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the May 26, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

Whenever I think of Memorial Day, I think of my four years in the U.S. Army and a 1999 conversation I once had with a sergeant named Michael.

Michael (now a sergeant first class and who’s serving as a first sergeant in Iraq) and I were both Russian linguists and chatted one night. I asked him if military service was a family tradition. He mentioned that his father, Larry, had done a tour of duty in Vietnam in the early 1970s.

“How’s your Dad doing now?” I asked.

“He didn’t return home.”

“I’m sorry to hear about that. What happened?”

“Right as a gunfight ended, someone threw a grenade onto a gun truck he was on,” Mike said. “He threw himself onto the grenade and saved the lives of those around him.”

Almost as an afterthought and with hardly a change of expression, Mike told me his father was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor—the highest award one can earn in military service.

Specialist Larry Dahl, Mike’s father, was from Oregon. Thinking about this made me look online to see about Michigan residents and enlistees who received the Medal of Honor. Here’s a sampling of what I found at http://www.homeofheroes.com:

Ensign Francis C. Flaherty, U.S. Naval Reserve, who was born in Charlotte, Mich. in 1919. During the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor when given the order to abandon the capsizing U.S.S. Oklahoma, Ensign Flaherty remained in a turret and used a flashlight so the rest of the turret crew could escape. By doing so, he sacrificed his own life.

First Lieutenant George Ham Cannon, U.S. Marine Corps, who joined the service in Michigan. While at the Midway Islands during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Cannon was mortally wounded by enemy fire. He refused to leave his post until all his wounded men (who were wounded by the same shell) were evacuated. He then continued to direct the reorganization of his command post until others removed him forcibly; subsequently, Lieutenant Cannon bled to death.

Sergeant First Class Donald Moyer, U.S. Army, born in Pontiac. During an intense battle near Seoul, Korea in 1951 during the Korean War, Moyer threw himself onto a live grenade.

Major Louis J. Sebille, U.S. Air Force, who was born in Harbor Beach, Mich. In 1950 near Hanchang, Korea, his F-51 aircraft was badly damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Instead of ejecting from the aircraft or crash landing, Major Sebille instead chose to continue attacking enemy forces that were targeting friendly ground troops. Finally, the major crashed his aircraft into an enemy target.

Sergeant First Class William Maud Bryant, U.S. Army, who entered the service in Detroit. In Vietnam’s Long Khanh Province in 1969, Sergeant Bryant’s unit was under heavy enemy attack. For 34 hours, he moved throughout his company’s position under the hostile gunfire to direct fire, distribute ammunition, assist the wounded and provide leadership. He was killed by an enemy rocket after leading patrols to try to break through the enemy’s encirclement.

Something to think about while you’re relaxing during a cookout on Memorial Day.

Richard Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald. He, his father, uncles, brother-in-law also have served in the armed forces. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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  1. Tami Gay
    May 28, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    This was so heartwarming to read . My son in law is being deployed in July, so this memorial day will mean something diffrent to my family then it has in the past. It made me feel shame for not relizing the REAL reason for this day before now. Not only do I pray for my”son” now but for ALL service men and women.

  2. May 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    That is fantastic. What a nice tribute to these men. Thanks Richard.

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