Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day weekend

Posted by John McHale

I spent mine in the Philadelphia area with my family.

Some of that time was spent watching various Memorial Day tributes with my parents and reading articles online about experiences of veterans from various wars. Two of them stood out.

My parents watch the PBS National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. every year. On Sunday I did too. The music was outstanding as were the tributes.

Actors Denis Leary, Gail O'Grady, and Caitlin Wachs told the story of Staff Sergeant John Faulkenberry by playing the roles of Faulkenberry's friend PFC Chris Pfeifer and their wives, Sarah and Karen, who became friends during their training in Germany. Faulkenberry and Pfeifer were together in Afghanistan. Faulkenberry died as a result of wounds received in battle there.

After the scene there was a not a dry eye in that audience or in my house.

There was also a tribute given to actor Charles Durning (pictured here), who received a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle in World War II (WWII). It was dedication to him and those soldiers who served during that time.

During WW II soldiers like Durning were called GIs or government issues, while during the first World War they were called doughboys. According to Wikipedia, there are various origins of the term, the most likely stemming from the Mexican War, "in which the infantry were constantly covered with dust from marching through the dry terrain of northern Mexico, giving them the appearance of unbaked dough." Also the helmet worn by infantrymen during WW I was called the Doughboy helmet, "even though it was the Brodie helmet design used by the British army."

Did you know that there is only one doughboy/American serviceman still alive from World War I? His name is Frank Buckles and he is 107 years old. I'm sure many of you have heard of him as he's on T.V. every year, but this weekend was the first time I'd read about his life.

I came across a George Will column - "The Last Doughboy" - that told his story and how he is getting along at such an advanced age. According to Will, Buckles says "he is feeling fine, thank you for asking."

I urge you to read more about Frank Buckles, Staff Sergeant John Faulkenberry, Charles Durning, and other veterans when you have a moment and remember the sacrifices they made.

Thank you to all who served and continue to serve - especially to my grandfather, Albert Volpe who like Buckles served during World War I, and my cousin Steven Caucci, who lost his life in the Vietnam War.

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