Category Archives: Military Honors

Taking Chance

Our fallen heroes and their families have been political pawns in Washington’s latest power plays. While the political class cares little for the military and their families, this HBO documentary shows that the American people do. Taking Chance was released in 2009. It is a powerful story describing how our military – and the American people – honor those who die in combat while protecting our country. The movie is available on DVD and some of the streaming services. You can also read Lt. Col. Strobl’s story at the Chicago Tribune.

Savannah’s Vietnam Memorial

We recently enjoyed a brief visit in Savannah – an opportunity to do a bit of research and visit the cemetery where most of my Savannah Barrett ancestors are buried.  I also wanted to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Emmet Park – not only because it’s a beautiful memorial but also because it was created by Oglethorpe Marble and Granite.  It just so happens that they are part of my Savannah family.

Vietnam Memorial in Savannah

A huge piece of Georgia marble sits in the middle of a reflecting pool.  It has a map of Vietnam carved on its face and a pedestal at the top with an upturned rifle, empty boots, helmet and dog tags.  A five-pointed star of marble embedded in the cement fans out from the pool with the insignia of each of the branches of service carved at the points.  A large block of marble (shown here on the right) lists the names of the 105 area residents  who were killed or missing in the war. To the east, American and POW/MIA flags fly perpetually at half-mast.

Savannah

Like many military memorials, the funds to create it are donated by citizens, civic and fraternal groups and businesses.  Rings of engraved bricks are also embedded in the cement to show who helped make this memorial possible.  A spirit must have been guiding my feet as I walked over to get a closer look at the bricks, for when I stopped and looked down, I was surprised to find myself standing directly over a brick with my father’s name, W H Barrett, engraved on it.  Actually, it should not have been so surprising.  My father served in the U.S. Merchant Marine and during the Vietnam War he shuttled fuel from the Persian Gulf to Cam Rahn Bay. So, now I have an even closer attachment to this beautiful memorial.

Savannah

Details:  The map was carved in place from three pieces of Georgia marble with a total weight of 91 tons.  An overhead photo at the Oglethorpe Marble and Granite site shows a better perspective of the carved map.

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation

Sunday, April 5th, media were present for the return of a fallen Airman to the United States.  Staff Sgt Phillip A. Myers died the previous day of injuries from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.  For the first time in 18 years, media were allowed to photograph/film the arrival of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

SSgt Phillip Myers returns home. (AF Photo/Roland Balik)

SSgt Phillip Myers returns home. (AF Photo/Roland Balik)

The policy restricting photographs of the fallen began in 1991 with the first Gulf War.  The original purpose was to provide privacy to the mourning families.  The new administration has lifted the restrictions as long as the family agrees to allow media access.

Dover Air Force Base is home to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center which prepares the remains of the fallen service member before he/she begins the journey home.  Like any family, the military has its own traditions for honoring our dead – and especially those who are killed in battle.  Many are familiar with the funeral honors – the folded flag, bugler playing taps, and rifle salute.  Civilians often are not aware that those honors actually began at the place of his death and will continue until he is laid to rest.

To the personnel at Dover’s Mortuary Affairs, it is personal to all involved.  Every detail is important to the team committed to honoring our dead heroes and supporting their families.  A series of video presentations describe how committed these people are.  You can see for yourself at Air Force Link.