I’m sure you recognize the last name, Roosevelt. His full name was Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He fought in World War I and World War II. By the time of the invasion of Normandy, in June of 1944, he was commanding general of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, the only general to land on the beach with his troops. Under heavy fire he directed the incoming units to their areas. Not bad for a 57-year old man who had arthritis, suffered from old wounds, walked with a cane, and had heart trouble. He was not ordered to lead his troops. He volunteered. He felt he could do more for his men by leading from the beach rather than on a ship. He died of a heart attack less than 30 days after D-Day.

You may or may not recognize the name of Major Charles Loring. He was a 34-year old Major in a fighter-bomber squadron during the Korean War. On his final mission he was flying in support of troops on the ground. He loved the “grunts,” as they were called. He felt they were bearing the brunt of the war and he would do anything for them. He proved it. The enemy made a direct hit on his aircraft. Knowing it was too damaged to land he turned his plane into a nosedive and steered it into the enemy guns, destroying the emplacement and saving the lives of hundreds of American soldiers on the ground. For his heroic deed he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

You won’t recognize the name of Lt. Sharon Ann Lane. She was a nurse at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado when her orders came through to report to Vietnam in April of 1969. She was assigned to the 312th Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. She worked in the 4th Ward twelve hours a day, six days a week. In the early morning hours of June 8, 1969, an enemy mortar struck the hospital between Ward 4A and 4B, killing two people and wounding twenty-seven others. Lt. Lane died instantly. Seven other nurses were killed during the Vietnam War. Lt. Lane was the only one who was a direct casualty of enemy fire. She had been in Vietnam less than six weeks. She was buried with full military honors at Sunset Hills Burial Park in her hometown of Canton, Ohio. The next time you are in Washington, D.C. visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  Her name is listed on Panel 23W, Line 112.

These are just three of the hundreds of thousands of stories of men and women in our armed forces who have sacrificed their lives. Memorial Day was established in 1868 to honor the dead from the War Between the States. It was called Decoration Day because people would put decorations on the graves of the soldiers. The name was later changed to Memorial Day and made an official holiday by Congress in 1971, a time to honor the dead from all of our wars. Nut sure when it became the barbecue weekend of the year.

At the funeral of every veteran you will hear the loneliest song in America, “Taps.” At my father’s funeral it was a lone trumpet on a hill underneath a big oak tree, about a hundred feet from the gravesite. I call it the loneliest song because it is always played by a lone bugle or trumpet and it has no official lyrics. The lyrics are written in the life of the soldier for which it is being played.

That’s why we have Memorial Day, to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for us. When you hear “Taps” this Memorial Day, and you probably will, say a little prayer thanking God for those whose life ended too soon because they gave it for our freedom. While you are at it, say a prayer for those currently serving around the world. Pray that we will not hear “Taps” played for them until they have grown old and lived a full life. Maybe then it won’t seem so sad and lonely.

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