Memorial Day...READ THIS!

We remember those who have fallen to protect our freedoms on this day.. If you have a heart, you will read this all the way through. I wrote this several years ago...when my son was serving in Iraq... and he told me about a friend who had been killed in action. A true American Hero... not my son, but his friend...  Please read ALL of this and think about those who have died over the centuries to give us the freedom to be able to read pieces like this!   

War is Hell

It was at the Ohio State Fair in 1880 that one of the most quoted statements on war was first uttered. Speaking was General William T. Sherman, you know him as the general who captured Atlanta during his march to the sea back in the days of the Civil War. These were the words he spoke to a group of military cadets who were graduating at the time and preparing for life in the armed forces of the United States.‘Cadets of the graduating class’ – the students arose and saluted – Sherman then changed is greeting to simply saying ‘Boys,’ because like all young soldiers they WERE all just boys. He continued with this statement: ‘I’ve been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It’s entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here.‘Suppress it! You don’t know the horrible aspects of war. I’ve been through two wars and I know. I’ve seen cities and homes in ashes. I’ve seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is hell!’

 Back in the 60’s when I was growing up all of the boys played Army. We had been watching shows like “Combat!” and movies with John Wayne that glorified the life of a soldier. We thought war was cool. But we didn’t know war at all, we only knew the version that Hollywood wanted us to know, the one where the good guys never get killed and no one ever bleeds after being shot or blown up. I remember clearly thinking how ‘cool’ it would be to be a soldier, to go out and look for and kill the enemy of my country. I thought it would be easy. I never once thought of the cost of war, only of the perceived glories of it all. 


But that view of war is false, and that was the message Sherman was trying to get across to his group of graduates. War is not ‘cool’, war is not fun, it is not about running around shooting the enemy and laughing. War is Hell on earth, and there is no such thing as a small war. When men face men with the intention of killing each other there is nothing glorious about it, no matter which side you’re on.

 I’ve mentioned before in this that I have a son, Army Specialist Christopher Herrera, who is serving right now in Iraq. He’s stationed in Baghdad with the 26th Forward Support Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division. His home away from home is known as “Camp Hope”. Recently both of us learned the true meaning of Sherman’s words. 

It was a Saturday and I was sending instant messages to Chris over the Internet when this message came across from my son, thousands of miles away: “One of my friends got killed.” I was stunned. I wrote back, “What? What happened?” He responded, “One of my friends got killed yesterday. His name was Dustin Yancey. He was a private. He was in my company at Ft. Stewart and went out on missions all the time.” 

I responded: “How did it happen?” Chris wrote back, “He was on patrol and got hit by an IED. (Improvised explosive device… we call them roadside bombs)” Chris continued, “There was a Captain who got killed too.” I was stunned. I was completely at a loss for words and knew in that instant, perhaps for the first time in my life, what Sherman meant when he said “War is Hell!” There was only one word I could think of to respond to Chris.

“Damn!” 

I did not know Army Private Dustin Yancey, nor Army Captain James Gurbisz who was killed along with Pvt. Yancey but I cried that day for both of them and for my son who in one fell swoop had lost the optimistic outlook that defines one’s youth. Never again would Chris, nor I, look at war as something that other people worry about.

 Never again would war be exciting or fun. War would forever forward be nothing short of Hell on earth. War would be the force that took from us Private Yancey, quick with a joke, loved by many, missed by all at Camp Hope. War would be the evil force that snatched Captain James Gurbisz from his family and from his friends. 

I asked Chris about Yancey. He responded, “He was a quiet guy, but always had jokes. You would never think of him as ending up KIA.” That’s Killed in Action for those who do not know. That’s the problem with war and the soldiers who fight it. None of them ever imagine THEY might end up KIA. Their parents don’t imagine such horror, their friends don’t imagine it. We sugar coat war too much and stories like this need to be told to remind people that Sherman knew what he was talking about when, more than 100 years ago, he warned military cadets “War is Hell!”

Chris and Yancey, as he was known by his fellow soldiers, were friends for about two years. Actually from the time Chris was first ordered to Ft. Stewart, Georgia with the 3rd Infantry Division. They joked together. They played together. They were in the same company at Ft. Stewart and grew to know each other as only soldiers can. Neither could possibly imagine their all-too-short friendship would last only those two years because one of them would pay the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. I close  with a request that you pray for the families of Pfc. Dustin Yancey and Capt. James Gurbisz. I know that God has already prepared a special place for the souls of these men and others like them who gave up their lives not for earthly rewards, but to make it possible for others, most often complete strangers, to live in freedom and to control their own destiny.


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