Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flander's Fields...(Major John McCrae, May, 1915)
In just a few short days, on November 11, 2017, America will once again observe Veteran's Day, or as it is known across Europe, Remembrance Day. It is one day: twenty four hours, 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds; that we are to stop and remember those who sacrificed all for our freedom.
Every time we visit London with Will Power, we visit Westminster Abbey which is located near Big Ben and Parliament. During the entire month of November, surrounding Westminster Abbey, there are small crosses decorated with red poppies with names on them. They fill in the grass all around the large cathedral, each bearing the name of one who was lost.
For this blog, I wanted to take the time and honor some of the heroes--some of the lost. I have chosen four. They are not all Americans. They fought in different battles and in different ways. They are not well known or widely celebrated, but they are, most certainly, heroes who offered great sacrifice--one of them, the ultimate sacrifice. They are but four of thousands of these such unsung heroes, and they deserve our reflection. I hope that after you learn about them and read a little bit about their contribution to our world and our freedom, you will give them a few minutes of your time and remembrance this November 11...
JOHN ROBERT FOX: The ultimate sacrifice
The 92nd Infantry Division (segregated African American soldiers) also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, was a division that fought in WW2. First Lieutenant John R. Fox was a member of the 366th Infantry Regiment when he sacrificed his life to defeat an enemy attack and save the lives of others. In December of 1944, Fox was a part of a small party that volunteered to stay behind in the Italian village of Sommocolonia. American forces had been forced to withdraw after that village had been overrun by the Germans. From his position on the second floor of a house, Fox directed defensive fire. German soldiers were attacking, and they greatly outnumbered the small handful of Americans. Fox radioed the artillery to bring its fire closer to his position. As the attack continued, he ordered fire directly onto his own position. The soldier who received the message was stunned, as there was little if any chance that Fox, himself would survive the offensive strike. When he questioned the order, Fox simply replied, "Fire it. That's an order." His sacrifice gained time for the US forces to organize a counterattack and retake the village.
After the war, the Italian citizens of Sommocolonia erected a monument to honor the men killed during the artillery barrage: eight Italian soldiers and the American, Lt. Fox. Fox was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on January 13, 1997.
Nancy Wake was a British Special Operations Executive agent from Australia during the later part of WW2. She became a leading figure in the maquis groups of the ferocious French Resistance or "Army of the Shadows" that fought against Nazi occupation; she was one of the Allies' most decorated servicewomen. After the fall of France in 1940, she became a courier for the French Resistance and later joined the escape network of Capt. Ian Garrow, helping Allied pilots who were shot down over enemy territory secretly escape through the Pyrenees Mountains from France into Spain, where they could be flown out to rejoin their troops. Just three years later, Wake was on the Gestapo's most wanted list, with a five million franc bounty on her head. On the 29th day of April in 1944, she parachuted into occupied France near Auvergne, becoming a liaison between London and the local maquis group headed by Capt. Henri Tardivat in the Forest of Tronçais. From April 1944 until the liberation of France, her 7,000 maquisards fought 22,000 German soldiers, causing 1,400 casualties while suffering only 100 among themselves.
Nancy's husband George was tortured to death in 1943 by the Nazi Gestapo for refusing to disclose her whereabouts. Nancy Wake was awarded the George Medal, the US Medal of Freedom, the Médaille de la Résistance, and, three times, the Croix de Guerre.
VASILI ARKHIPOV: The Man who Saved the World
Vice Admiral Vasili Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer credited with casting the only vote that prevented a Soviet nuclear strike and all out nuclear was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such an attack would have caused a major global thermonuclear response which could have been our WW3, destroying much of the world. As flotilla commander and second in command of the diesel powered submarine B-59, only Arkhipov refused to authorize the captain's use of nuclear torpedoes against the United States Navy, a decision requiring the agreement of all three senior officers aboard.
Apparently, on October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven US Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the B-59 near Cuba. The Americans started dropping signaling depth charges, which are explosives intended to force the sub up to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days, and those on board the Russian sub had no idea whether or not war had broken out. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, decided that a war had probably already started, and wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo. As such a decision required the three top in command to unanimously agree, Arkhipov was the one voice that saved the US Navy and probably, the world that day.
You have all come to know Larry Frost as the author of Conversations in the Asparagus Patch. He is a dear friend of my family and the husband of Sherri Frost, a woman I am proud to call my best friend--literally since birth. Sherri is that type of friend who stands with you through it all in life: the storms and the celebrations. They are an incredible couple of great faith and grace who are truly an inspiration.
Larry is a man who has been a great leader in business and his community and a mentor to many over the years. He has shared with us, personally, some of the most remarkable stories I have ever heard from his own war experiences as a Vietnam Veteran. If you are not someone who believes in miracles, you most certainly would change your mind if you heard Larry's stories from Vietnam. Larry doesn't consider himself a hero, but his wife and his friends most certainly do. He is a man who deeply loves his country and would willingly lay down his life for another in a time of great crisis or peril. While very humble when it comes to his own accomplishments, Larry does, however, consider those amazing young men with whom he served as heroes, and probably none more than his best friend, Shelby.
My family had the honor of finding Shelby's name on the traveling Vietnam Memorial
War is ugly. It is a monster that steals away the best and brightest, and leaves the rest haunted by misery and images too horrible to speak--too ghastly to forget. It represents the very worst human beings can be; that ugly, selfish, hatred that seeks only to avenge, kill, take, and destroy.
I will be flying across the country and the Atlantic this year on Veteran's Day; off to London with
In your blog response, comment on your own reflection as we come towards Veteran's Day, November 11, 2017. I conclude this very special blog with this, one of my favorite poems. It was brilliantly used by President Ronald Reagan as he stood where I will be standing in just a little over a week, on the shores of Normandy in France, honoring the men who stormed those very beaches to liberate France, and Europe in 1944:
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of--wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew--
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
~ John Gillespie Magee, Jr.