Monday, May 31, 2010

Patriot's Pride

C. Melvin Fritzemeier - 1929-2002

Memorial Day has been around since 1868. Gen. John Logan, a Grand Army of the Republic commander, is given credit for establishing Memorial Day as an official holiday.

The day began as a solemn time to remember veterans who died in service. Families brought flowers and flags to decorate the graves of their fallen loved ones. Memorial Day - or Decoration Day - later evolved to include placing flowers and mementos on the graves of other family members.

Randy's Dad, C. Melvin Fritzemeier, served in the Army during the Korean War. I didn't ever hear him talk about it much. Though he was quiet about it, I know he was proud to have served his country.

He was following in mighty footsteps. His uncle, Capt. Robert "Bob" Hornbaker, was a 778th squadron pilot, 464th Bomb Group based at Gioia del Colle Airfield, Italy, during World War II. Uncle Bob was brother to Melvin's mother. Capt. Hornbaker had already received a medal for "his job in bringing home a butchered airplane despite heavy enemy opposition and a wounded co-pilot."

But on May 25, 1944, Capt. Hornbaker's crew, flying "Strictly from Hunger," a B-24, took off from Gioia del Colle, to strike the Givors' marshalling yards, 13 miles south of Lyon, France. It was mission No. 17 for the 464th Bomb Group and mission No. 12 for most of its crew.

During the mission, the plane received direct hits from enemy fire. Capt. Hornbaker was hit in the head and perished. All of his other crew members were killed in action that day or became POWs when the plane went down near Cannes, France.

Randy says that the family always referred to Uncle Bob as a hero. When we visited the Strategic Air Command Museum near Omaha last week, Randy was most interested in the planes and missions from World War II and Korea (more on our tourist visits later this week.)

Uncle Bob is buried in Peace Creek cemetery, just a mile north of Randy's boyhood home.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed 20 World War II veterans for a series of stories in a retirement facility's newsletter. Talking to those men and women was like a history book had come to life.

I talked to two men who had seen the flag raised at Iwo Jima. And while it was a poignant photo, the two said the fighting went on long after the Stars and Stripes flew from Mount Suribachi.

Another fought and was wounded on the beaches of Guadalcanal. After recuperating from the wound and from malaria, he again fought in the Battle of Tarawa. Another recounted his walk under a white sheet into the snowy Ardennes Forest and the ensuing Battle of the Bulge.

I talked to the widow of a man who had been a POW in Germany who eventually came back to Kansas to farm. Another had a piece of olive green tin from a kamikaze plane that bombed his Navy ship. The stories were as unique as the 20 brave veterans I interviewed.

It brought home to me how much our Armed Forces sacrifice for our freedom. That is true whether we are remembering veterans of wars past or the men and women who protect us today.

Our church's prayer concern list always includes the names of military with Stafford connections. It is amazing to see how many service men and women are from our little town. I think there are nearly 25 on the list.

So today, I would like to salute all veterans and current service men and women. I also thank their families who are left behind to worry and keep living life while their loved ones are in harm's way. I got the words in an email sent to me last week, and I illustrated with some of my own flag photos.

It is the
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

(Photo by Brent)

It is
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is
not the politician,
who has given us the right to vote.

It is the
salutes the Flag,

It is the
serves under the Flag.

Thank you and God Bless our veterans and those currently serving in our Armed Forces.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice! Great picture of Dad. Wonder if there is any hair under that hat!! (I think not.)