Memorial Day Remembrances

My Corona … Day 77: A Memorial Day tribute

I am guilty of complaining quite a bit lately about this interminable COVID-19 shutdown.  But such will not be the case on Day 77, as we enjoy a COVID19-stunted holiday celebration. At times like these, it is important to understand what real suffering and sacrifice looks like in the wake of some of the darkest times in our history.

Remember the following and all the rest of these Heroes for the last full measure they have given and what their loved ones have gone through and endured for decades.

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Charles H. Grubb

Charles H. Grubb from War Eagle, West Virginia looked like a Boy Scout, not so much the soldier he was in his U.S. Army uniform.

Attribution: Aaron Kidd, Stars and Stripes(.com)

“Grubb — who served with Company M, 3rd Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division — was declared dead a few months later, and his body was never found.

“The Chosin battle of Nov. 27-Dec. 13, 1950, pitted some 30,000 U.S.-led troops against a Chinese force of about 120,000 trying to prevent the allies from pushing north in a bid to unify the Korean Peninsula. Thousands were killed on both sides as troops engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Others perished from the bitter weather.

“Smith — who served with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division — was reported missing Nov. 25, 1950, after his unit was attacked near Kujang-dong, North Korea. He died the following January at a temporary prisoner-of-war camp near Pukchin-Tarigol, according to several Americans who survived the war.

“In July 2018 — weeks after President Donald Trump met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the first time in Singapore — the North handed over the 55 boxes purported to contain the remains of U.S. service members from the war. They were then flown to DPAA’s lab in Honolulu for identification.”

Grubb’s younger sister, Glenda Hatcher, waited 69 years for word of her brother’s fate.  Grubb’s mother passed away in 2001, never knowing what happened to her son.  Charles H. Grubb is now interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

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A somewhat uplifting storyline accompanied the return of COL Roy J. Knight, Jr., of Milsap, Texas.  In November 2019, 52 years after being declared MIA, then KIA when he was shot down over Laos, his remains were brought home.  His son, Bryan Knight had the honor of piloting the Southwest Airlines flight ( < Click on link for details.) that brought his father back to Texas.  He had last seen his father in January 1967, just four months before his loss over hostile territory.  Bryan was only five years old.

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COL Roy A. Knight, Jr. in front of his A1-E Skyraider

In July 2019, the remains of 20 U.S. Marines, who lost their lives on the island of Tarawa during the island-hopping Pacific campaign of World War II, were returned to the United States after their makeshift graves were located.

Attribution: David Vergun, US Department of Defense website

“The battle of Tarawa took place from Nov. 20 to 23, 1943, on the heavily fortified island of Betio, which was held by 4,500 Japanese troops. More than 18,000 Marines and sailors were sent to secure the island. When the battle finally ended, more than 1,000 U.S. troops had been killed.

“Marines killed in action were buried where they fell or were buried in a large trench built during and after the battle. These graves were typically marked with improvised markers, such as crosses made from sticks or an upturned rifle. Grave sites ranged in size from single isolated burials to large trench burials of more than 100 individuals, according to DPAA officials.

“More than 3,000 Japanese soldiers were killed on the island, as well as an estimated 1,000 Korean laborers. These men were buried where they fell, or in bomb craters and existing trenches. Their remains are sometimes commingled with U.S. casualties, DPAA officials said.

“Immediately after the final day of battle, landing troops were replaced by Navy construction battalions, known as “SeaBees,” who had little knowledge of the burial locations.

“The Seabees engaged in construction projects requiring the movement or rearrangement of known burials or grave markers. Later recovery efforts found that multiple grave markers were relocated without moving the burials they marked. No record of these movements has been found, officials said, and it’s likely none was kept.”

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Repatriation ceremony for the Tarawa 20

My heart wants to believe their families knew they were killed-in-action; knew where it happened; knew where in general they were laid to rest.  But waiting so long for the ability to say goodbye and assuage their grief sounds marginally better than not knowing anything for decades and yearning for their physical return.

Closure for those still living is a comforting thought.  But you must empathize with those relatives … mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters … who passed away before their loved ones were returned home.  Remember those loved ones – still waiting or now gone – when commemorating those brave American souls who were lost in far flung battles.

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