The Last Full Measure

The year is 1918, and the Argonne Forest is thick with the smoke of artillery fire. In the course of forty-seven days, over 26,000 young American lives were lost in the defense of northern France. Though America’s entry into World War 1 was late, it was pivotal. It would be the first time that the men of the United States would give their lives in defense of democracy, but it would not be the last.

It’s Tuesday, June 6th, 1944. After days of stormy weather and overcast skies, the young men of The Greatest Generation are battling sea-sickness and frayed nerves. After a short ride in their landing craft, the ramps dropped…..and German machine guns started their deadly work. At Point Du Hoc, at Omaha and Utah beach, American blood turned the sea red, but the spirit of the U.S. fighting forces, and the dedication to those with which they served, drove them relentlessly forward…….and along with their battling brothers in the Pacific theater they brought the Axis powers to their knees.

Just a few short years later, in November 1950, American forces fought a determined North Korean Army, along with their Chinese reinforcements, in the Battle of The Chosin Reservoir. Not just battling waves of North Korean troops, but frostbite, frozen guns and equipment……even the blood of American soldiers froze before it could hit the ground. Still…….the North Koreans were fought back to where they started, and a free and prosperous South Korea is the result.

Over a decade later, in the middle of the Vietnam War on January 21st, 1968, United States Marines and their allies came under intense fire while defending their garrison at Khe Sanh. For the next 77 days, and against all odds, the Marines successfully repelled the North Vietnamese. Though almost 500 Marines were lost, their brave actions cost their attackers over 10,000 troops……..and even though their country had lost the taste for this war, the fighting men of the United States never lost an engagement with their determined and savage enemy.

In more recent years, the volunteers of the United States Armed Forces have fought  bravely in a thousand different battles – in a thousand different hellholes across the Middle East…….and they continue to do so. In places like Fallujah, and the inhospitable terrain of the mountains of Afghanistan – American men and women have served with distinction and honor against an enemy that wears no uniform and honors no rules of engagement.

Today is a day to remember those that have fallen in service to our nation. In the midst of your cookouts and festivities, among the smiles and laughter of good friends and family, take a moment to remember the stoic suffering of those countless Americans…..whom endured the unendurable, and watched as their friends and brothers-in-arms fell to the fire of the enemy. This Memorial Day, give thanks and honor to those that have fallen – so that we may stand. Of those that have fought for America…….all gave some, and some gave all.

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” – Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address

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