OPINION: A patriot's view on the Fourth of July
Unlike two of my sons, four of my uncles, my father, and stepfather, I did not serve my country.
I wish I had. Holding America dear is theoretical for me. But it was life and death for the soldiers, seamen, airmen and military police that are my immediate family.
Two sons served in Afghanistan: one in base/off-base security, the other as added manpower on a small, remote, plywood forward base with highly trained special ops.
The son at the forward base got relieved a month early so a West Point second lieutenant could take his place and get "active combat" added to his resume. Soldiers consider an assignment with daily live fire a "plum," but I can tell you, parents don't.
Two uncles served in the Navy, one as a graduate of Annapolis. One uncle surged into Germany as an Army MP as it fell to the Allies.
My stepfather married my widowed mother 23 years after my father died. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bombing a bridge at treetop level, stranding 5,000 German vehicles on the wrong side of the river. He had the Plexiglass nose of his Marauder bomber blown off in front of him. He was the bombardier. He flew 65 missions.
My father was a navigator on a number of B-17s. Though he died before I knew enough to ask him about his service, we found 35 "bomb tags" with a brief description of each mission in a shoe box — which target, which plane, accuracy of flak, fighter plane resistance.
One had this comment: "Ordered in at 19,000 feet. Virtual suicide. 9 out of 13 in the low group went down."
Because the 8th Air Force, 303rd Bomb Group, 427th Squadron Hell's Angels, Lt. Drerey's plane has a written history, I discovered that Dad's plane was in the low group.
And these kind of anecdotal stories can be repeated a million times across America.
But perhaps the greatest story is the humility shown in complete and total victory by America and its leaders, including George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the American Congress and the Senate.
The emotional cost of war went far beyond the loss of young soldiers in their prime as sons and husbands, daughters and mothers. This was the deepest grief eventually getting tied to the revelation of atrocities beyond the abilities of most to imagine.
Soldiers that suffered the "death march" at the hands of the Japanese in the Philippines told their stories of losing thousands of young friends who stumbled and were stabbed to death by their captors.
On June 6, 1944, thousands of Marines and soldiers died by the hour, mowed down on the beaches of Normandy by fortified German defenses, as re-enacted in the movie "Saving Private Ryan."
Perhaps the worst optics of human depravity ever filmed was by the American Army as they liberated concentration camp after camp like Auschwitz where millions of European Jews were systematically starved and exterminated by the Nazis as a part of their infamous "final solution."
How did we treat German and Japanese citizenry after war criminals were tried and sentenced? We helped stabilize, rebuild, treat their wounds, and then...wait for it: Set them free.
Yes, we did. We set them free.
Tsunamis decimated coastal cities in Sumatra, Japan and other Pacific communities over the last 20 years. Besides billions in support voted on and rushed in during the ensuing months, there was immediate relief moved on within hours.
America diverted an aircraft carrier group on their way to the Persian Gulf to fly in water, medicine and food. The captain asked his sailors if they would forgo showers for weeks so the water could be flown into refugees. There was no hesitation among the sailors. Fly it in.
Those sailors, soldiers, Marines, even leaders in the day — by offering true liberation with substantial and deliberate relief countless times over, directed action that saved and benefited millions while reflecting the heart and will of a generous, humble and hardworking people.
So the next time you hear you are forever marked by the behavior of your ancestors, take it to heart.
Because you are.
Wayne Mayo is a Scappoose resident, small business owner and former candidate for Columbia County commissioner.
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