OPINION EDITORIAL – I was thinking about the Military and how much they do. I remember when I was a little guy we always went as a family to the graveyards where our relatives were buried. Mom and Dad would tell us about our ancestors who were under the sod in those places. Dad’s stories were great. But his best stories were about his two cousins.
One cousin was in on the Normandy Invasion. He lived, but his younger brother was killed by a sniper in Belgium somewhere. His name was Dennis and I think he was Dad’s favorite. He was a good lookin’ farm boy with basketball prowess, blonde hair and blue eyes. I wonder what went through that sniper’s mind when he had Dennis in his cross hairs. Maybe something like “That guy could be my cousin.” All I ever knew about Dennis (besides Dad’s stories) was the Purple Heart that hung on the wall above his daddy’s favorite easy chair.
That old brick farmhouse where Dennis had grown up had been built by my great, great grandfather. I think. It’s too late to ask now. It was torn down. Someone saved some of the bricks for us kids. My brother just salvaged a couple hand-hewn logs out of the only remaining wall of the original log house on the first Bowers homestead in Jennings County where we’re from. That house and farm were given to our ancestor for his service in the War of 1812. My brother is sending us one of those logs. My wife wonders what I’ll do with it. It’s about 16 by 14 inches square. Looks good as new. Probably a species that resists rot, a good quality in anything.
When we would visit the Hopewell Baptist Church Graveyard, where Dennis’s body lies, there would always be an honor guard who fired a salute over the veterans buried there. Some of those guys in the guard detail were pretty ancient and tottered around a bit. But they held their Springfields just right and swung them up crisply to await the order to fire. Some wore their old service uniforms. Some wore belts whose buckles pointed down instead of straight out. We kids would scramble for the shell casings after the Guard had gone. Dad always stood by Dennis’s grave throughout. Later we had chicken and potato salad, but those old honor guards made an impression. Those fellows were honorable and forever noble because of what they had sacrificed and done with a few years of their lives. They were citizen warriors who had risked their lives to keep us free.
Others had done the same thing before them. Others have done the same since. When you think about the Military of America you should put it in a list of things that are great about America. You could list agriculture, our great universities (some still are), our industry, our inventors, our artists and musicians and writers, other great things that have been made in or by America. But if you leave out our Military you’ve left off the one institution we couldn’t do without. The one institution that made all the other things possible.
I never served, but many of my ancestors did. They paid a hard price so I can be free and easy. One ancestor served in a Militia in Virginia in the Revolution and possibly the French and Indian War. He was called up four different times. He brought his own rifle. Guys like him inspired the Second Amendment (which does not refer to muskets … or it would say so) … and notice how our Revolutionary ancestors acquired weapons as powerful and lethal as their British oppressors brought across the Pond. They didn’t take a knife to a gunfight and neither should we. They went to the fight with the most effective weapon they could lay hands on.
When you are fighting oppressors, foreign or domestic, you should be as efficient and lethal as possible. Maybe the oppressors …, like Admiral Yamamoto, will think better of their evil designs and get lost sooner.
And on a similar note, when you hear the whiners on the left talk about how evil America is to be engaged in foreign wars, try to imagine what our Revolutionary ancestors would say if asked whether they would have preferred to fight on somebody else’s real estate than their own. Particularly when the foreign bad guys have made it known they are coming to hang you or cut off your head. Isn’t it better Hitler finally died in his own backyard than in Iowa or Kokomo?
And speaking of Hitler, I must confess I never liked the German people because of memories of that Purple Heart on Dennis’s wall. That is, I didn’t like ‘em much until I learned I was descended from some. That’s right, our family, on Mom’s side, bore the same name as Hitler’s favorite composer.
Those Wagners during the Civil War were members of the Indiana 14th Mounted Infantry. They were dragoons who got places on horseback and then fought on foot. They were a father and son team, although in different companies. The son was a lieutenant who on almost the last day of the war suddenly came face to face with Nathan Bedford Forrest and watched as his Captain charged Forrest and engaged him in probably the last saber duel fought on horseback in America … maybe in modern history. Forrest was a killer. He personally killed 13 men in singlehanded combat. Most of those 13 were during the War, but not all. Most of those he killed in the War were the enemy, but not all. My ancestor took over the Captaincy a few days later. Forrest had vacated that position.
Dad commanded a Stuart tank in the Pacific late in the War and his older brother was a cook’s mate in a warship in the Pacific. Mom’s childhood sweetheart was killed in Sicily. My cousin Jason just died and he spent the last decade of life blind due to Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam (maybe they painted the guardhouse walls with it, because, by his own admission, he spent considerable time there).
Friends have told me what it was like in the war they fought. Some of the stories dear pals have told me are horrible, particularly when you remember they experienced them while they were in their teens.
I never served, but I am so proud of those who did. If not for them there would be no architecture, music, literature, agriculture, industry or anything else we call American. And there would be no Freedom.
They aren’t forgotten because they and what they did is unforgettable.
I hope you like my drawings because they are intended to honor those who served.
Written, drawn and submitted by: Stephen Bowers
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