Jerry Smith: 'Welcome home'

800. Another 800. Memorial Day, and every day throughout the year another 800 survivors from World War II die. Not to count the heroes from each of the "Police Actions" that have followed that war. Yet you would not know any of this by reading the ads, and watching television. You would know that there is a great furniture, automobile, or some other sale to "honor" veterans, but nothing about the veterans who have fallen to protect this country.

You would find most public employees on a long weekend, but rarely a recognition of why.

A politician or two will make a speech, but since so few of them has served this country, those speakers have no understanding of the real meaning of Memorial Day. So as a survivor of that great war, permit me to remind you. We have been referred to as the "greatest" generation. When we were attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, recruiting offices throughout the United States were surrounded by lines trying to get in to fight for this country.

Our way of life was simple, and "My Country 'Tis of Thee" meant something to us. Our mission was very simple - kill enough Nazis and Japanese to win the war, and we were blessed with leadership who gave us the tools and encouragement to carry out our mission. Win. No holding actions. No worry about offending someone.

Getting information to save our troops any way necessary. Keeping our domestic borders secure. Now we shed tears not only for the fallen, but for the men and women who since that time have not been able to win the battles they are called upon to fight, or to even identify a mission.

With the best trained, best equipped, best educated all-volunteer armed forces of the United States of America, the best in the world, we feel shame that our political leaders will not support them and let them win the battles the same political leaders have put them into. From the smallest town to the largest cities, we knew coming back from battles in places we couldn't even pronounce, that our government and the people working to supply us, were behind us.

When President Truman was faced with the horrible decision whether to use the Atomic bomb or not, he had the courage to use it. Not just to save hundreds of thousands of American lives, including mine, but possibly millions of Japanese lives. That kind of courage doesn't seem to exist today. When we were able to finish our job, the only thing we wanted to hear were two simple words: Welcome home. Those two words mean as much to today's returning heroes as they did to us. They, too, for the rest of their lives will mourn fallen comrades in arms. Most veterans recognize others veterans by sight. You will notice them sharing a handshake and a mutual "thank you for your service" or a "welcome home."

So for Memorial Day, and every day you enjoy the freedoms we fought to protect and preserve, you should do no less. And a hug helps. God Bless those who did not come back, and God Bless these United States, from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Welcome home.

• Jerry Smith was Navy Amphibious's WWII, China Service, American Theatre of Operations, Philippines Liberation, and SW Pacific Theatre leading up to and including the final battle for Okinawa. 


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