Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day: A Day for Memories not Exploitation




Memorial Day: A Day for Memories not Exploitation
By Frank Antenori
May 27, 2007

Ever since its inception 139 years ago by the Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, General John Logan, in his General Order No. 11; Memorial Day has symbolized the sacrifice of those many brave men and women who have fought and died so we could be free. I hope many will take a few moments from their day off of barbequing and watching baseball to appreciate what Memorial Day really stands for.

It’s an especially sacred day to those that have served in the military, particularly those that have served in combat and have lost close buddies in war.

However, for others, it now seems to have a different meaning. You see, there is someone that is running for President that has asked his supporters to use Memorial Day as an opportunity to protest the war in Iraq. Not only that, he is asking them to protest along side parade routes, at memorials and near cemeteries where traditional Memorial Day ceremonies will be held. I’m not going to bother to mention his name because I now consider him scum, not worthy of mentioning.

Memorial Day is very personal to me. It’s a day I reflect and remember my good friends and relatives who have died fighting so dirt bags like this guy who have never lifted a finger to defend this great country, never served under her flag and never broke a sweat let alone spilled a drop a blood to protect our fine Constitution, can exercise the rights he takes for granted.

I remember relatives like my Great Uncle Gino J. Merli, a first generation American who volunteered for the Army while he was still a junior in high school. A year after dropping out he ended up on the second wave of the Normandy invasion, landing on Omaha Beach. A few months later he was awarded the Medal of Honor for holding his position behind his machine gun and covering his buddies as they withdrew to safety.

That scrappy 20-year-old son of Italian immigrants held off hundreds of Germans, feigning death, not once but twice, when his position was over run. After the Germans passed him, he jumped up, spun his machine gun around and continued to fire. In the morning, when his unit counter attacked, they found Gino still sitting behind his gun with 52 dead German soldiers, many just a few feet in front of him.

Refusing to be evacuated, Gino asked if they could take him to the nearest church so he could pray. Gino said a prayer not only for the buddies he lost, but also for the German soldiers he had killed. Gino died on June 13, 2002 at 78 years old. Freedom of religion tastes a lot different when you had to fight for it and right up until the day he died, Gino thanked God for being alive and for living in a country that gave him that freedom.

On Memorial Day I’ll take a moment to say a prayer for several good friends like Dan Petithory and Jefferson “JD” Davis, men I served with in the Special Forces. When Dan and I were young and single sergeants, we’d go out to a local night club to drink a few beers and check out the local wildlife. JD and I were instructors together at the Special Forces training course; training future Green Berets. We worked many long hours side by side, longing for the day when we would both get back on an A-Team and back into the action. We both got that wish. I ended up being a Team Sergeant in the 3rd Special Forces Group, and Jeff ended up being a Team Sergeant in the 5th Special Forces Group as well as Dan Petithory’s Team Sergeant.

During the initial invasion of Afghanistan, on December 5th 2001, just a few weeks after September 11th, Dan and Jeff became the first Americans killed in action. They died far away from their families on a cold mountain top in the middle no where. They died avenging the deaths of 3000 of their fellow Americans.

Then there’s Jason Cunningham, a young Air Force Pararescueman (PJ) that I trained at Fort Bragg in the late 90's. I ran into him again a few years later in Afghanistan. While we were sitting on the steps of what was the make shift headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Bagram Air Base, Jason relayed the story of how, a few days earlier, he and his fellow PJs saved the lives of six crewman of a C-130 that had crashed.

I felt like a proud father listening to the sound of accomplishment in Jason’s voice as he detailed the medical care he administered and how he later safely evacuated them to Germany. It would be the last time I would seem him. The following day, both of us would be involved in Operation Anaconda to root out the last hold outs of the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the mountains surrounding the Shai i-Kot Valley.

On the first day of the operation, a small group of Navy SEALs had been wounded and were surrounded by the enemy on a snow covered mountain top. Jason and his fellow PJs once again answered the call and along with a platoon of Army Rangers, set off as a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) to rescue their fellow Americans. When the CH-47 helicopter they were flying in approached the landing zone it was hit by a rocket propelled grenade and crashed landed.

Jason scrambled from the burning wreckage and immediately began treating the wounded. As bullets riddled the fuselage, Jason pulled soldier after soldier from the burning helicopter to safety behind some nearby rocks. When Jason saw some additional Rangers that had been wounded after exiting the helicopter he exposed himself to direct enemy fire to save them.

Jason was hit in the abdomen by an enemy bullet, just below his body armor. Because of the heavy fighting the wounded could not be evacuated and for the next two hours, he slowly bled to death. He was awarded the Air Force Cross, the second highest award for bravery. He died saving his buddies, living up to his unit’s motto "So That Other's May Live." He left behind a wife and two little daughters who will never know their father. He died defending the country he loved and freedom he cherished.

Dan, JD and Jason are just a few of the eighteen close friends I have lost since this war began. I wish I could relay all of their heroic actions; someday I might. I will be remembering all of them tomorrow. I will be honoring their sacrifice along with many of my fellow veterans as well as those patriotic Americans that appreciate what they have done for us.

That said, you’ll have to forgive me for my anger when I hear or see what I consider scum, wrapping themselves in the flag that these brave men fought for then spitting on their memory. I’m sorry that it irks me to no end to hear some pathetic coward claim it’s their “First Amendment Right” to exploit the bravery of the fine young men and women that gave their life defending the Constitution that these punks take for granted.

Politics stops at the grave of the brave souls that have fallen defending freedom and no one has the right to use this solemn day for political gain. So to that candidate running for President that has stooped to the deepest depth of immoral behavior, you’re finished. It will be a cold day in hell before you sit in the Oval Office, me and the 20 Million other veterans in this country will see to it. For the rest of those scum bags that intend to jump on your dishonorable bandwagon and protest on this sacred day I leave you with this quote:

"War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his personal safety; is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. " - John Stuart Mill



Frank Antenori is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class and Special Forces Soldier that saw combat in Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq.

17 comments:

CavMom said...

Frank,

Thank you for a well written piece. Shameless politicking on this day of remembrance is sickening.

God bless those who sacrificed for this country with their very lives. I pray for comfort for their families.

justevolvin said...

Very well written. But I think we can honor and show respect to those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedom. We can honor and respect them by demonstrating that we value the lives of our current military and by bringing our troops home.

I don't condone protesting as John Edwards seems to be advocating, but I do think that those who are currently serving should not be far from our minds.

I personally thank each and member of the military who have paid for their service with their lives. Their sacrifice should be made meaningful, however, by bringing our troops home.

Sirocco said...

I agree with the sentiments, but it cuts both ways.

'Nuff said.

yankeemom said...

My heartfelt thanks to Frank for his words and duty.

And to all who have gone before and those who now follow in their footsteps, we will never forget.

x4mr said...

Appreciate the authentic remarks. You speak from the heart, and that alone distinguishes you from many.

As someone who has developed an appreciation for quotations, I will say that your selection of the John Stuart Mill piece is perfect.

In a better world, we would not have to contend with the fine human beings you describe being placed into intolerable situations due to decisions made at far higher levels.

That is another conversation.

Have an excellent Memorial Day.

roger said...

It is fascinating that this very piece, in reaction to something that Edwards said, is itself, using Memorial Day for political purposes.

Why else would Frank Antenori place this post on a conservative political blog and why else would he even make reference to Edwards and those who believe this war is wrong?

The answer has to be that Mr. Antenori is angry and himself chooses to use the troops, and Memorial Day, and our honorable war dead to sully Democrats...like Edwards...or anyone who disagrees with this war. He takes this occasion...this special occasion...to call other Americans unpatriotic.

It seems to me that if he had practiced what he had preached, he would have only talked about the sacrifice of these honorable men and women, asked us to remember them today, and would have shared his relevant and clearly honorable experiences.

I will chalk this up to a mistake in a fit of anger. Thank you for your service Frank.

Framer said...

Roger,

Frank posts here because this blog now belongs to him as much as it does to me, it is his outlet, and in this case the anger he feels is certainly justified. He has certainly earned the right.

I fail to see where he is painting all who oppose the war with the same brush of disdain as he is reserving for Edwards. It appears that you may have a slight martyr complex, or perhaps you agree with the sentiments of Edwards.

This day should not be about Edwards at all. You can always protest, but he chose this day specifically to get the most press, just as he turned the announcement of his wife's cancer into a fund raiser. He was successful on both counts, assuredly, but he is a small, small man, and I pity those who follow and adore him.

It is entirely right and just that Frank should bring up those who have served and fallen, as, for some of them, only he can bring them voice. He is not chanting and shouting at a graveyard, to disturb the families of heroes. There is no equivalence whatsoever.

And finally those who attempt to speak "truth to power" on behalf of "protecting our troops," it might do you some good to actually speak to some soldiers. They really aren't all that hard to find. I would suspect that the results would be enlightening.

Thank you Frank.

roger said...

First of all, I was not at all questioning Frank's right to post here or your right to allow him. Whatever.

My point remains the same and as true as I made it before, Framer. Frank's post is political and uses Memorial Day as a way of attacking those he sees as politically reprehensible. In fact, as I think about it, I find it as reprehensible as he finds Edwards...again...because he tries to use this day and these sacrifices as a way of painting the war as just and its opponents as unjust.

Does he have a right to say it? Sure. On this blog or any conservative blog? Absolutely. But it doesn't make his argument about keeping politics out of Memorial Day any less a tautology than it is.

I believe he was offended by Edwards...sure, but I also read his piece to be placing some kind of higher claim of Republicans over freedom, over the troops, and yes...using this occasian to say so.

That said, we can agree or disagree about whether he is right on the war or not, but I think we can all agree that the troops who have fallen have made the ultimate sacrifice for America...whether the cause was just, right, or wrong...they served anyway and that is what makes them so honorable for their sacrifice.

Some of us want and hope that these sacrifices would be made for the most important and serious of causes...the most dire...and most in the interest of America and the freedoms of its citizens. This cause was not that....and most Americans agree.

Finally, many of us do talk to the troops. I do almost every week when I talk to my brother, who is a Captain and a most honorable soldier. He is committed to the service and I am soooo proud of him. He, like many, feel betrayed by having himself and his dear friends be placed into harms way on false pretenses, but he never questions the sacrifice of his friends and he never questions the fact that he should serve when called. He relies on us..at home...and the politicians to care about them and to make sure their sacrifices are not made except for the most just of causes, unlike those that led to this war.

God bless our fallen heroes and God Bless America.

romel said...

Roger, you do speak the truth.

Sgt. Antenori's every breath is for political gain - he hopes. This will be denied but why does it take 10 pages of dialogue to make "a point"??? Again , I say, brevity can be more meaningful and just might get attention.

Framer, why is the written word of two guys joined at the hip, make such an impression on your usual balanced view?

duke the dog said...

Did I miss something? Is Frank Antenori running for President? Is he running for any office for that matter? How in the hell can you jump to the conclusion that he stands to gain politically from posting in some obscure blog?

On the other hand, Edwards has clearly said several times he plans to exploit the war in Iraq for political gain. He’s the one exploiting Memorial Day and for what? Just to have a decent showing in the Iowa primary?

I don’t know why Frank wasted his time writing about Edwards. He’s a third rate candidate destined for the trash bin of history with the rest of the political one hit wonders.

Another thing. I can’t believe you guys take the side of the narcissistic, ambulance chasing, trial lawyer that has clearly exploited everything from handicapped children to his own wife’s cancer and give a decorated vet like Frank a hard time just because he’s ticked at John Edwards?

Boy is this country in big trouble.

Sirocco said...

Here is President Bush's 2006 Memorial Day speech at Arlington. Note the (unnecessary) references to 9/11 and terrorists. I am sure there was no intent to score political points there. I especially like this completely apolitical line:

"Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."

I, for one, think it's awfully nice of the terrorists to agree to limit their fighting to Iraq and Afghanistan and not bother us over here at home.

Here is the transcript of his 2004 speech. I am sure all the references to Irag and Afghanistan, and the touching little anecdotes, had nothing at all to do with politics. (Yes, Kerry also made a self-serving Memorial Day tribute).

I could give more examples. Edwards' self-serving statements are unnecessary and unappreciated on such a day, as are those of any politician. Lets make sure the outrage gets directed at all of them.

Framer said...

"Our nation is free because of brave Americans like these, who volunteer to confront our adversaries abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."

This is true of every American war since the Civil war, with a possible mini exception to Pearl Harbor. This of itself isn't overly political.

"How in the hell can you jump to the conclusion that he stands to gain politically from posting in some obscure blog?"

Duke, that was unnecessarily harsh :)

CavMom said...

Roger,
If you fail to see the reasoning behind Frank's words you have lost.

Do not be so bent on finding fault that you overlook the meaning.

Memorial Day is a day to Remember and to honor those who died fighting for this great nation.

A certain Presidential candidate (that I too refuse to name) shamelessly used their sacrifices as a platform. He has not earned that right. Nor will he ever.

Spend a day with those who have served, grasp a tiny insight to their service and then report back.

Ann said...

Frank,

I read your words and they stayed at the forefront of all I did on Monday. I hung two flags not one and brought out the Fourth of July decorations; not to be more festive but to create in the minds of my grandchildren just how special this day is. I made sure everyone at my home knew why we celebrated this day. That it is a day of honor. My daughter’s father-in-law was our guest of honor having been disabled during his service in Vietnam. As we said grace it was the sacrifice of all who gave that we also gave thanks for.

I do not share this to point to how great I am but how inspiring your words were. Those who would attempt to subvert such an American day of honor in remembrance of such bravery and sacrifice and turn it into an opportunity for personal promotion are no better than the ambulance chasers that see a car accident and instead of calling 9-1-1 give them their business card and an offer of a reduced commission. Oh wait….Now it all makes sense!

Duke the Dog said...

Framer,
No offense was meant, but the reality is AZ8th is a far cry from Free Republic or Daily Kos. To insinuate Frank was somehow going to gain a bunch of political points for posting his comments here was a laugh.

John Edwards on the other hand had a website wher you could type in your zip code and find out where the closest parade was for you to go protest.

That said, did anyone read today's paper about someone stealing American flags put out for a Memorial Day parade then burning them?

How about vets marching in a parade being pelted with eggs?

This is what happens when self serving politicians remove the common decency and respect from a day that until know has been revered for it significance as a day in which we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have paid the price for our freedom.

Thanks to people like Edwards, the MoveOn crowd and Code Pink, the day has now become an excuse to show blatant disrespect to our veterans and an excuse for thugs to cause trouble.

Again, this country is in big trouble.

roger said...

Duke the Dog,

I think he was absolutely trying to score political points...but among local, Arizona conservatives. He missive was against Edwards, against any who are against this war (as you read the language and between the lines)...it was political. I was simply pointing out the irony.

Again, if he wanted to honor the troops and our fallen hereos in a non-political way...as he thinks right on Memorial Day, he could have simply given all of the experiences of heroism and asked us to remember them. Instead, he forged a personal tirade and, like most conservatives, tried to politicize the war.

I find Framers blog and Sonoran Alliance to both be major opinion makers in among conservatives in Arizona. Antenori ran for Congress here...maybe he will again.

CavMom said...

Frank echoed the feelings of the hundreds of Vets that I spoke with on Memorial Day.

I don't care how you stand on the war. You do not attempt to rally Americans to dishonor the fallen by protesting on a day set aside to honor them.

That political figure shot himself in the foot with his blatant insult to our men and women in the service.