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Chapter 19 - Devotion

For many Americans Memorial Day signifies the start of summer and understandably so. The weather is warmer, days are getting longer, flowers are in bloom, and even if summer is not quite here yet, it is right around the corner. Memorial Day is a time to gather with family, feast on hotdogs and hamburgers, play outside, and enjoy being together. Having a Monday off right before school ends also adds to the overall feeling of impending freedom.

For my family and me Memorial Day is all of that and quite a bit more. It is a time when we think about family and friends who have served in the military and did not come home. My grandfather served in World War I, my father and two uncles in World War II, and more recently, my husband and son served in other conflicts. Blessedly they have all returned home to us. We do have friends who didn't make it back, friends of my dad's, friends of my husband and son, and friend's brothers who died in Vietnam when we were growing up.

So this year please take a moment or two to give thanks for those who didn't come home, who aren't here to have cookouts with their families, who never went to class reunions, who never got the chance to celebrate their children's weddings or the births of their grandchildren because they served and died to protect our freedoms.

Here are some suggested reads to refresh your memory of America's fights for freedom.

1776 by David McCullough - Sadly this wonderful historian passed away last August but his books are a must read for anyone who loves history. In 1776 McCullough tells the story of those who fought for independence from Britain in the first real year of the Revolutionary War.

Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War (The Civil War: 1861-1865) by Jeff Shaara - Shaara's novelized accounts of wars are developed through diaries and logs, historical documents, and letters from those who served. His history is always accurate and is in an easy to read novel form.

No Man's Land by John Toland - America really tried to stay out of World War I until well, we couldn't. While we got to Europe pretty late in the game, June 26, 1917, our troops immediately made an impact with the first 14,000 men landing in France. After four years of bloody stalemate along the Western Front, the entrance of America’s well-supplied forces into the conflict was a major turning point in the war. At war's end approximately 4.7 million Americans had been mobilized for war with about 116,000 who never made it home. This book tells all about it.

The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home by Sally Mott Freeman - There are so many great World War II books available but this is truly one of my favorites. Freeman tells the stories of her father and two uncles, what happened to them in World War II and its impact on their families.

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice by Adam Makos - This is the story of the first black Navy fighter pilot, Jesse Brown, his best friend, Tom Hudner, and the Choisin Resevoir campaign in Korea. Extraordinary times create extraordinary men and these were two of the Navy's best.

We Were Soldiers Once...and Young: Ia Drang - The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam by Lt. Gen. Harold T. Moore and Joseph Galloway - This nonfiction book is the account of the 450 men of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry who, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore who were dropped by helicopter into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley. They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The fortitude and sacrifice of these men for their comrades is a awe-inspiring yet devastating piece of history.

It is hard to believe that our good men and women have spent over 20 years fighting terrorism at its roots in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honestly, I have yet to read their stories as it is too fresh for me at this time. I'm sure there are wonderful books available to tell the tales. If you know any, please let me know!

I wish everyone a safe and Happy Memorial Day and please, just take a moment!


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