On this Memorial Day, we take time to remember those who have served our country with distinction and valor. Many are with us still, while others have passed on. All are greatly appreciated.
Rather than speak of the dedication and sacrifice demonstrated by our service men and women, we have chosen to listen. These memories, graciously contributed by staff, friends and readers, give a sense of what it was like to walk in the footsteps of those warriors who came before us—and of the loved ones they left behind.
Swift, Silent, Deadly
My brother, Harold, has always been a quiet professional. We were never close growing up, but his deployment to Afghanistan with the 3rd Recon Battalion really struck me, and I remember missing him immensely.
When I received a satellite phone call on Thanksgiving of 2011, I heard something different in his voice—something I was not able to put my finger on. The background noise was anything but peaceful. He told me how men in his unit had bartered with locals and attained a local species of turkey to eat for Thanksgiving. They had cleaned them, and were roasting them over a grill fastened from an ammo can originally used for rocket launcher munitions and barrier paneling for a grill grate. I was about to eat Thanksgiving dinner with my entire family.
Harold took the 3rd Recon motto “Swift, Silent, Deadly” seriously, and seldom talks about his deployment. Every time I see an American flag waving silently in the wind, I am reminded of the countless sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make every day so that we may sleep peaceably in our beds at night. — Jacob Betsworth, Sgt., Sarpy County (Neb.) Sheriffs Department.
Match Made In The Heavens
While flying out of Italy during World War II, my father, Clayton C. Dovey Jr., and his crewmates saw and experienced just about everything possible—with the exception of being downed. As a bombardier, seated in the glassed-in nose of B-17s, Dovey’s view was up close and personal.
One night and mission stood out among Dovey’s memories—a New Year’s Eve. While returning to base, the clock struck midnight and the sky erupted. The crew’s buddies below were celebrating with live fire. Those aloft radioed for an end to the celebration, with no response from the revelers. Thankfully, Dovey and his mates escaped fire and injury. Dovey went on to fly 75 missions, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star, and exited the service with the rank of Captain.
Back in his hometown of Johnstown, Pa., another patriot, who would later become Dovey’s wife, served as a Civil Air Patrol (CAP) pilot. Adele Podolka was a Corporal. CAP was originally formed to provide civilian air support to aid the war effort of World War II through border and coastal patrols, military training assistance, courier services and other activities.
— Laurie Dovey, frequent America’s 1st Freedom contributor
Three Decades Of Service
Major General Michael J. Ingelido served 31 years in the United States Air Force. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1941, and eventually flew 195 missions in the European Theater of Operations in a wide variety of Allied aircraft including the Supermarine Spitfire, Bell Airacobra (P-39) and Republic Thunderbolt (P-47). He rose very rapidly in rank during World War II (Lt. Col. by August 1944), was a highly decorated officer with 4 1/2 air-to-air victories (and other German aircraft destroyed on the ground).
Before retiring in 1972, he commanded two fighter squadrons, was Vice Commander of the 13th Air Force, and Commander of the 14th Aerospace Force—one of the first commands to integrate both air and space defense.
To NRA American Warrior, Mike was a fine friend and mentor. He died at home in April 2015 following a brief illness. He was an amazing 98. — Frank Winn, A1F Daily Guns & Gear Editor
Joe Foss—The Real Deal
Joe Foss probably had more friends than anyone I’ve ever known. They easily numbered in the hundreds, maybe thousands. He was that kind of man—he never met a stranger.
When Joe died in 2003, the tributes poured in. Medal of Honor aviator (despite what the Marines say, he’s their top gun), governor of South Dakota, first commissioner of the AFL and a Super Bowl originator, plus a media personality and NRA president.
But this Memorial Day I’ll be thinking of Joe Foss the thoroughly decent human being. Case in point: At the NRA meeting in 1995 we were walking out when a janitor recognized Joe. “Governor Foss!” he said. Joe altered course to greet the gentleman. When I reminded Joe that Didi was double parked, he simply said, “If somebody wants to meet me, I’m gonna meet him.” And he did.
That was Joe—the real deal and an American original.
— Barrett Tillman, Mesa, Ariz.
From Caterpillars To Chryslers
It was a fluke my father came to command a tank for the 5th Marine Division on Iwo Jima. Everyone else in his company was from Peoria, Ill., the home of Caterpillar, and they all knew how to drive tracked vehicles. The Marines put the lot of them in Shermans; Dad’s even had a bulldozer blade.
Once, his tank got separated from his company in a firefight. As they traversed a ridge, they passed a wounded Japanese soldier lying in a bombed-out pillbox. My father considered shooting him, but thought, “What the hell.” As they drove by, the wounded soldier shot him in the back, with the bullet just missing his spine on entry, his jugular vein on exit.
After the war, my father became a Chrysler dealer, and I sometimes helped him deliver cars. I could always pick him out in traffic; he was the driver who held his head at an angle. — Clay Turner, A1F Daily Creative Director
An Example To Follow
On Memorial Day I always think of my paternal grandparents, married on a dare in their teens, and who stayed married for 71 years. Grandpa Warren was a top gunner on a B-17 in World War II, then a tail gunner on a B-26 in Korea. He spent his career deploying to war, home long enough in between to leave my grandmother with five boys to raise. I'm not sure who had the more difficult job.
The generation who went off to battle the Axis powers in WWII faced great hardship, loss and separation from those they loved. They didn't have Facebook, Skype or even long-distance phone calls to keep in touch. One couple I knew was married the week before the new husband deployed to the European theater, and he didn't see or speak to his bride for the next three years. Yet they were still together more than 60 years later.
This kind of fidelity—both to one's mate as well as to the cause of freedom—is the thing that gives me pause on Memorial Day. Would that more of us would follow their example today. — Chuck Holton, former Army Ranger and NRA American Warrior contributor
Above And Beyond
On Memorial Day, we pause to honor the 1.1 million servicemen and women who have given their all to keep this nation secure and strong. Major events—especially two World Wars—are well and widely remembered, but U.S. astronauts have also given their lives to help us gain and hold the high ground of space.
Twelve years ago, the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia was burned into my memory. Columbia was on STS-107—its 28th flight—having also been the first shuttle orbiter to fly nearly 22 years earlier as STS-1. Columbia broke up on reentry high over the U.S. Southwest, just 16 minutes before the scheduled landing. The crew all knew the risks and willingly put their lives on the line to support the U.S. Civil Space mission, and the advancement of all humanity:
Commander Rick D. Husband, Colonel, USAF; Pilot William C. McCool, Commander, USN; Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Lt. Col., USAF; Mission Specialist Laurel Clark, Captain, USN; Mission Specialist David M. Brown, Captain, USN; Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, Colonel, Israeli Air Force; Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla, civilian aerospace engineer. — Jeff Norton, Colonel (Ret.), U.S. Air Force, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Warrior, Husband, Father
My father, Brig. Gen. David W. Winn, served his country in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force for 34 years. He flew combat missions in both World War II (67) and Vietnam (99). Four and a half of those years were spent as a Prisoner of War in (then) North Vietnam’s “Hanoi Hilton” prison.
He continued to serve his community after retirement from the Air Force when he was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents. In retirement, he focused on his family: wife Mary, three sons and a daughter (me), eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. He died in 2009. — Elizabeth Hallier, San Antonio, Texas
A Life Cut Too Short
Staff Sergeant Chris “Junior” Falkel of Highlands Ranch, Colo., was 22 years old when he died serving his country in Afghanistan. He entered the Army in October 2001 following his high school graduation, and never took his sights off entering Special Forces. By 2005, he was attached to ODA-316 in the Buka Ghar and Marah Valleys of Afghanistan as a heavy weapons specialist in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
In a five engagement, 34-hour running battle with multiple enemy units, his continual manning of his weapon broke up several enemy ambushes before he was killed by suspected sniper fire. — Anonymous Submission, 10th Special Forces, Ft. Carson, Colo.