There are thousands of military veterans, buried in cemeteries all across Florida and the country, each with their own stories of heroism and sacrifice.
They are why we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is not brought to us by any living person — not politicians and, certainly not by lobbyists. Memorial Day is brought to us by the blood, sweat and sacrifice of our military members who fought and died for our freedom. Period. No one else.
Umatila native Private Robert Miller McTureous, Jr. is a hero.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps University, during World War II, McTureous, as part of Company H, Third Battalion, 29th Marines of the 6th Marine Division, took part in the capture of an important hill on Oroku Peninsula in Okinawa. “The company suffered several casualties during the assault and enemy fire remained so heavy that the wounded Marines could not be evacuated. His platoon was temporarily pinned down.
“Realizing that the wounded must be removed to the rear and the heights must be taken, Pvt McTureous, without any orders or suggestions from anyone, filled his pockets with grenades, jammed more of the explosives inside his dungaree jacket, and charged up the hill and into the enemy position where he knew the accurate rifle and machine-gun fire was coming from.
Running among the caves, the 21 year old, 138-pound ex-football player tossed grenades into the Japanese positions as Marine stretcher-bearers came forward to remove the wounded during the temporary lull caused by his furious one-man assault. His supply of hand grenades exhausted, he returned to his own lines, took on another load and returned to the caves, smashing his deadly charges into the enemy positions. Passing one cave, he was badly wounded in the stomach but instead of calling for help and risking other men being hit in attempts to rescue him, he stoically crawled 200 yards to a sheltered place within the Marine lines before asking for aid. His actions completely silenced the Japanese, killing six of them and so badly disorganizing the remainder of the savage garrison, that his own company was enabled to occupy the hill and complete its mission. The earlier wounded were also evacuated to safety due to his heroic self-sacrifice. Pvt McTureous was removed to a hospital ship, the USS Relief, and given large quantities of blood in an attempt to save his life, but all efforts failed and on the morning of 11 June he died at sea.”
He was a posthumous Medal of Honor recipient and his remains were buried in the 2d Marine Division Cemetery on Saipan. Later, in 1949, his remains were reinterred in Glendale Cemetery, Umatilla.
He brought Memorial Day to you.
Jacksonville native, Army Specialist Nathaniel Byrd, died during the Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam, on November 15, 1965. He was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, C Company, immortalized in the book and movie, “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young.”
The battle of Ia Drang raged from Nov. 14-16, 1965, and marked the first major battle between the U.S. Army and People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN). It was a brutal battle, with many of our soldiers dying in that valley.
In May 2017, I had the profound honor of meeting many of the survivors of that battle in Albany, GA during their annual reunion.
Fifty-two years later, these survivors were still getting together, catching up and remembering those no longer with them. Some of their memories and details of the battle are found here.
These fine men still cry for their brothers lost. They vividly remember their dear friends who died in their arms.
Those were heroes once and always will be. They brought you Memorial Day.
Memorial Day, originally Decoration Day, commemorates American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For decades, Memorial Day was observed on May 30. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem.
On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.
But, the picnics and trips to the beach are not what Memorial Day is all about.
It’s a sober day of remembrance. For people who fought with all they had and died for a country they loved.
Shame on anyone who says it’s “brought to you” by anyone else.