Category Archives: Military

Sunday Memorial Day Ceremony in Churchville To Honor Native Son

World War I Dough Boy tombstone for Russell Snyder, located in Green Hill Cemetery, Churchville, Virginia. Born Aug 30, 1892, died Oct 8, 1918. Pvt, 11 Co CAC, Fort Mott, Salem, NJ. The statue is extremely detailed and must have cost a great deal of money. Here is a better photo of the dough boy tombstone.

A few weeks ago I received an email from Will Bear in Churchville with an invitation to the Memorial Day observance on Sunday, May 28,  at Green Hill Cemetery. It is a local commemoration that is open to the public, and is a reminder of why we remember all fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.

A casualty of World War II, Winfield Liggett is buried in France but a headstone in Churchville is a reminder of this native son.

This year will feature a local family’s contribution to the world’s largest amphibious military operation to liberate World War II France. Winfield Liggett III was assigned to what would often be the lead company (of the lead battalion of the lead regiment) of the 29th Division offensive operations. Wounded in the Normandy invasions, he returned to France and later died in the intense fight for the port city of Brest.

Jimmy Kilbourne,  Executive Director of Staunton’s Stonewall Brigade 116th Infantry Regiment Foundation and Museum, has compiled his research about this Virginian to reveal the fascinating story of sacrifice for freedom.

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Part 2: Bedford D-Day Memorial remembers, reads names of those lost June 6, 1944

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“The eyes of the world are upon you … free men of the world are marching together to victory. I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty, and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory.” –General Dwight Eisenhower (Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe on the eve of Operation Overlord)

See Part 1: Remembering D-Day 72 years later for more photos of the June 6, 2016, D-Day commemoration at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. Below are more pictures from Monday’s event.
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“This vast operation is undoubtedly the most complicated and difficult that has ever occurred.” –British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

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Part 1: Remembering D-Day 72 years later

DSCN1760 (2)“Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.”
–President George W. Bush (at National D-Day Memorial dedication, June 6, 2001)

Monday, June 6, 2016, was a day for sights and sounds and memories and stories from some of the few remaining veterans who survived June 6, 1944. It was the 72nd anniversary of Operation Overlord — the allied invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day — that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

Exiting the four-lane highway in Bedford and turning onto Overlord Drive, it is a quiet drive through open fields up the hill to a place of reverence and thankfulness. Surrounded by the peaceful Virginia countryside with the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Sharp Top and Flat Top mountains that form the Peaks of Otter in the distance, the National D-Day Memorial provides an opportunity to learn and reflect on a pivoting event in America’s — and the world’s — history.

The overwhelming extent of the sacrifices made as well as the huge operation that involved 150,000 Allied troops, 5,000 ships, 11,000 aircraft, and huge losses of more than 9,000 Allied soldier who died, including 2,499 American soldiers, in the largest amphibious landing the world has ever seen, was sobering. The liberation of Europe began that day and, though the war would continue for almost a year longer, the Normandy invasion gave Allied forces an opening to begin working their way across Europe to defeat Hitler.

Thankfully, the vision of D-Day veteran Bob Slaughter to have a national site to remember and honor those involved was achieved, and the National D-Day Memorial was dedicated on June 6th, 2001, by President George W. Bush.

My husband and I arrived early on Monday and stayed into the afternoon — attending the 11am ceremony, strolling the grounds, reading the historical plaques, and listening to the roll call of names. We left with a renewed appreciation for the Greatest Generation. Below are photos that capture a small part of the day. May we never forget.


Why Bedford for the national memorial? As explained in the video, the memorial is a reminder of the extreme sacrifice the small Virginia town at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains made during the invasion on June 6, 1946. They lost more men per capita than any other location in America. Of the 30 Bedford soldiers in Company A, 19 perished that day and four others during the war. That sacrifice by the Bedford Boys was the reason their town was chosen as the site for the national memorial. For photos of the memorial’s tribute to the Bedford Boys, see 72 years later … the Bedford Boys.

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For the first time ever the roll call of the names of the 2,499 Americans killed on D-Day was read by volunteers whose voices could be heard  throughout the memorial’s grounds. The honoring of the fallen continued for three hours into the afternoon with names read by veterans, families, volunteers, and dignitaries.

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“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.” –Laurence Binyon

 

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The Bedford Boys seemed to come to life Monday.

DSCN1771 (2)Visitors began arriving prior to the 11am ceremony. Veterans were seated under shady awnings out of the sun’s glare.

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DSCN1797 (2)The 29th Division Drum and Fife band and honor guard.

DSCN1804 (2)A P-51 Mustang circled the site and made two passes over the memorial at the beginning of the ceremony. The World War II vintage aircraft was an American long-range, single-seat fighter-bomber used throughout the war and on D-Day (see Air Power Over the Normandy Beaches and Beyond). The pilots who flew the aircraft (see WW II pilot remembers D-Day, 72 years later) and gliders (see The Flying Coffins of World War II) were instrumental to allied forces, flying bombing missions and delivering troops and supplies.

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Members from the French Embassy were there to award France’s highest decoration, the Legion d’Honneur is France’s highest decoration,  to a Frenchman who was liberated with his family because of the D-Day invasion. Decades later he moved to America only to see there were no commemorations like were held in his country to honor the men who were part of that liberation, and so he began working with them. Now a Roanoke resident, he has continued to honor and serve the vets as they grow older. After many American soldiers received the Legion d’Honneur throughout the years, he is the latest recipient. See his entire story by reporter Matt Chittum in the Roanoke Times.

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D-Day veteran Norword Thomas of the 101st Airborne. It was amazing to hear his remarks about that day.

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DSCN1882 (2)The future looked to the past as World War II veterans were recognized and thanked.

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DSCN1889 (2)We sat in front of the names of these brave Allied soldiers.

DSCN1890 (2)Patriotism is expressed in many ways.

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“The Bedford Boys” statue.

See more photos from Jill Nance with the News and Advance.

Photos by Lynn R. Mitchell
Bedford, Virginia
June 6, 2016

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One American soldier killed, 2 injured in Afghanistan

American flag Marine 1By Lynn R. Mitchell

U.S. military command in Kabul: 1 U.S. troop killed, 2 soldiers wounded in fighting in southern Afghanistan.

An American soldier was killed during Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The fighting Tuesday against the Taliban was near the city of Marja in Helmand province, where the Taliban has made recent gains.

Details on the battle and the number wounded or killed is sketchy and the situation is fluid.

One U.S. official says a U.S. helicopter was sent to the scene to evacuate casualties but did not immediately take off because a mortar landed nearby. It was not clear whether the mortar has damaged the helicopter.

Prayers go out to the families with gratitude for their sacrifices. Freedom is not free.

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‘I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day’ … remembering our U.S. troops around the world

By Lynn R. Mitchell

My dad, who passed away in 1975, was a U.S. Navy veteran who served on the USS Wisconsin during World War II. He was 19 years old when he went to war. Later in his life, while I was growing up, he was a Sunday School teacher for 12-year-old boys in our church.

Dad’s favorite Christmas hymn was, “I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day,” because his service during the war had made the words even more meaningful to him. I think of him every year when this song is played.

For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the words of the song came from personal tragedy, as heard in the narrative by actor Ed Herman with music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This year, in the wake of the loss of six American military members in Afghanistan in recent days, the words are even more poignant to a mourning nation.

Our military men and women are working this Christmas, many far from home and away from their families. Let us remember those currently deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the world as well as here on the homeland who protect our freedoms and keep us safe.

This is in memory of my Dad, and for all our military members, past and present.

I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1863)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Originally posted in 2006

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Wreaths Across America … remembering fallen military heroes at Christmas

Staunton National Cemetery

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Wreaths Across America tractor-trailer trucks left Maine last weekend for the week-long journey to Arlington and other national cemeteries throughout America, each loaded with evergreen wreaths. If you drive by a military cemetery on Saturday and see tombstones decorated with fresh, handmade balsam Christmas wreaths accented with bright red bows, you will have witnessed the generosity of Wreaths Across America.

The tradition was started in 1992 with 4,000 wreaths donated by Merrill Worcester, a tradition that continues on the second Saturday each December. This year, thousands of volunteers across the nation and around the world will lay 219,000 wreaths on military graves as a remembrance of those who sacrificed for our freedom.

Mr. Worcester’s quiet donation all those years ago of 4,000 wreaths for Arlington Cemetery has become an annual gift of love from this Maine wreath maker who recognized that freedom is not free. Because of his generosity and desire to remember those who sacrificed, he started a tradition that was fairly obscure for 12 years until a photo hit the internet in 2005 showing the Christmas wreaths on Arlington’s snow-covered graves.

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A look back at Veterans Day 2014 … Delta Force medic Dr. Rob Marsh and ‘Black Hawk Down’

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Dr. Rob Marsh and Pastor Greg Mayo

[Editor’s note: Looking back at Veterans Day 2014 at Cornerstone Church of Augusta with Delta Force medic Dr. Rob Marsh with his inside look at “Black Hawk Down.”]

By Lynn R. Mitchell

“Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.” –John 15:13

The older gentleman slowly made his way to the front of the banquet room to the sound of applause from the crowd of more than 300 gathered to honor local military veterans. It was the day set aside for them, and in this gathering he was one of three left standing in the “over 90” group of vets — he was 93 — in the “who is the oldest veteran” recognition. What he revealed to the crowd brought everyone to tears.
He was, he said, one of the first soldiers on Omaha Beach that long-ago day in 1944 in the invasion that saw thousands of Allied forces killed.

In September an invitation was extended from a friend whose church decided to honor local military veterans on Veterans Day:

Thank you for serving our country and protecting our freedoms!

On Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, Cornerstone Church of Augusta is hosting a Veterans Day Banquet at 6:30 p.m. Our guest speaker is Dr. Rob Marsh, former Delta Force Medic. Tickets are free for veterans and a guest.

By the time Veterans Day rolled around, all 300 tickets had been distributed with a waiting list of dozens. Our friend, who was on the committee that organized the event, obtained permission so I could write about the dinner and take photos.

We picked up two neighbors who rode with us to Cornerstone Church of Augusta in Fishersville. One is a Korean War veteran (see Korean War vet survived behind enemy lines), and the other is the widow of a Vietnam War Army tunnel rat who passed away in June (see Passings: Honoring a Vietnam Veteran and Husband, Neighbor, Friend, Military Vet: Saying Goodbye).

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Veterans Day is every day for Pham family

Tony PhamBy Tony Pham
General Counsel, Richmond Sheriff’s Department

Maybe it’s personal for me. My life has been shaped by the sacrifices of veterans who picked up arms and gave of themselves. From our entry to this great nation 40 years ago to becoming citizens 30 years ago, these opportunities were secured by men and women in our armed forces who fought for our country.

Maybe it’s the 58,000 who did not come home or the many others who went missing in action or how our veterans were treated when they did come home, all while I enjoy freedom that makes this personal for me. Maybe it’s the understanding that these brave men and women leave their families to fight so we can enjoy ours.

Ronald Reagan once said that “freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” I, for one, am grateful we have our veterans fighting for our nation’s freedom so we don’t have to one day tell our kids what it is like to live in the United States.

So to all of my veterans, today and every day, is your day. The Pham Phamily sincerely appreciates each of you. Without you, there would be no us. I cannot speak for others, but Veterans Day is everyday for us.

‪#‎Leadership‬‪#‎Commitment‬‪#‎Courage‬


Tony Pham, a General Counsel for the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office and the GOP nominee for the Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office, lives with his family in Henrico, Virginia. Born in South Vietnam, he and his family immigrated to the United States at the fall of Saigon in 1975, and became American citizens in 1985. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, he earned his J.D. from the University of Richmond’s School of Law. In 1999, Mr. Pham was initiated into the Upsilon Nu Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a historically African American fraternity founded on the campus of Howard University.  He was named as one of Style Weekly Magazine’s “Top 40 Under 40” and Virginia Lawyers Weekly’s “Leaders in the Law” for his work in criminal law and the Asian community.

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Veterans Day 2015 … their service and sacrifice protect our freedom

By Lynn R. Mitchell

“For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.”

Veterans Day 2015. Today we honor those who have served and sacrificed to protect our freedom.

At LynnRMitchell.com, we honor two of our own who are veterans and thank them for their dedication to God and country. Marine veteran Daniel Cortez is a Vietnam vet who was wounded in 1970 and was decorated for extraordinary heroism in combat, and managing editor Kurt Michael is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers veteran.

My husband, a Southeast Asia-Vietnam era Air Force veteran, is flying American flags in front of our home along with the POW-MIA flag, a reminder of those who did not come back. My parents are visiting this week so we have a World War II Navy veteran in the house; my late father was also a World War II Navy vet. Brother-in-law Jon served in the Army as well as cousin John, and another cousin Jim served in the reserves.

Grandfathers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors … heroes surround us.

As then-Governor Bob McDonnell, himself a U.S. Army veteran, noted in 2012, “The sacrifice of these heroes and their families makes it possible for us to continue to live and to freely pursue our dreams here in the greatest nation this world has ever known. Freedom is not free. Our brave veterans remind us of that every day. … I urge all Virginians to once again renew our pledge to all of those who are serving and have served: an eternally grateful Commonwealth and country stand forever ready to serve you. … We can’t just stop and recognize our heroes on one day. We must recognize them, serve them, and thank them every day. Our liberty depends upon their sacrifice.”

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell

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’11 Bronze Stars, 14 Tours, 1 Widow’

Master Sgt Joshua Wheeler

                                                 Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler

By Lynn R. Mitchell

The words by Michael Daly hit hard:

Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, the first American to die in Iraq against ISIS, is a reminder of those who have sacrificed in two wars that never really ended.

Fourteen combat deployments.

Eleven bronze stars, four with a V for valor.

Seventy hostages rescued in the final mission.

One flag covered coffin, to be met by one new widow.

Four sons now without a father, one a new baby.

One posthumous Purple Heart.

And 319 million Americans in perpetual debt to Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, 19 years-old at enlistment, 39 when he became the first American solider to die in Iraq since the war supposedly ended there.

Too many of us have acted as if we were not at war at all during these last 14 years. We all but forgot about those who were deployed again and again and again as we preoccupied ourselves with the likes of the Kardashians.

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Moral courage needed addressing women in combat

Daniel Cortez 2By Daniel Cortez

Ladies and gentleman, guard your daughters. The government may want them for cannon fodder while attempting to advance the concept of women in combat.

Four decades ago while I was serving as a Marine Drill Instructor and later running a leadership school, we debated suggesting gender equality demanded the joint services put women in front line units.

Bad idea then … bad idea now.

I recall General Sam Jaskilka, the Marine Corps’ second highest ranking officer, speaking candidly about the fairer sex in combat.

Jaskilka a decorated World War II, Korean, and Vietnam veteran, calmly and frankly stated as he was visiting us troops in New Orleans at the time that he did not advocate sending women to combat. He was an old school gentleman when it came to women, and he said with specificity, “But they might.”

The “they” were politicians in Washington.

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Jeb about W: ‘He kept us safe’

George W. Bush miss me yetBy Lynn R. Mitchell

The biggest applause and loudest cheers from Wednesday’s CNN Republican presidential debate came when Jeb Bush defended his brother against negative comments from Donald Trump (see Jeb Bush defends brother, says George W. Bush ‘kept us safe’):

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush defended his brother, former President George W. Bush, against criticism from Donald Trump Wednesday night, saying “he kept us safe.”

“Your brother and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama,” Mr. Trump taunted the former Florida governor. “It was such a disaster those last three months [of George W. Bush’s administration] that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.”

Jeb Bush retorted, “As it relates to my brother, there’s one thing I know for sure: he kept us safe.” The audience at the debate cheered.

“You remember the rubble [at the World Trade Center]?” Mr. Bush asked. “He sent a clear signal that the United States would be strong, and fight Islamic terrorism, and he did keep us safe.”

Mr. Trump replied, “You feel safe right now? I don’t feel so safe.”

Here’s a question for Mr. Trump: What part of “no bombs falling on your head” do you not understand? President Bush kept us safe. His leadership deserves thanks.

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National POW-MIA Recognition Day

POW-MIABy Lynn R. Mitchell

Arizona Senator John McCain. Virginia’s Naval Commander Paul Galanti.

These are two who sacrificed for America during the Vietnam War when they were captured by the North Vietnamese and held captive for almost six years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton. There are no words to express the gratitude necessary for those who endured the horrors at the hands of the enemy during that war.

Today Americans across the nation honored prisoners of war (POW) who made it home, and paused to remember those who are still missing in action (MIA):

There are 1,741 American personnel listed by the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Office as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, as of April 2009. The number of United States personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 841. About 90 percent of the 1,741 people still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control, according to the National League of Families website (cited in the United States Army website).

See also Talking over iced tea with living history … former POW Paul Galanti and Richmonder Phyllis Galanti … quiet POW crusader passes away, leaves legacy.

 

 

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Losing military members … America’s skewed priorities

Chattanooga military killed 2015

Five U.S. military men killed in Chattanooga, TN.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

The following was posted to Facebook on August 1 by Kris Grogan, going viral in four days and shared 26,000 times. I saw it posted by military veteran friends.

For Kris Grogan, his last day in a military uniform was August 2, 2015. He is now retired from the Air Force for reasons he explains in this post, including this: “99 perent of America knows Cecil the Lion and Caitlyn Jenner. Only 1 percent will know the other 5 names (4 Marines and 1 Sailor) who gave their lives in Chattanooga, TN, at the hands of a terrorist.”

We thank Kris Grogan for his 14 years of service to our country. Can America afford to lose those willing to dedicate their lives to protect our freedoms?

By Kris Grogan

Tomorrow morning will be the final day I lace up my boots and put on my Air Force uniform. I have now served my country in uniform for 14 years but it is time to go.

As I was out-processing today my wife (who will be leaving service next month) and I were asked numerous times, “Why don’t you just stay in one more enlistment for your retirement?”

It was somewhat difficult to answer with just one reason as to why I have decided to take off the uniform. Was it the pay and benefits? No, not really (even though I make less than $15 a hour which many people think the minimum wage should be!). Was it all the deployments? Ummmmm, sort of (I have been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia just to name a few in addition to about 25 other countries) but I love my country and would always give my life defending this great nation for my family and friends.

So I just wanted to share a couple thoughts with all of you while I sit here thinking about my final day in uniform which will come at 0630 tomorrow morning. I currently am an AMMO troop. Our mission is to build bombs and process numerous other munitions to take the fight to the enemy. We pretty much put “Warheads on Foreheads!”

But what I signed up for many years ago has changed dramatically. Even though our mission is to kill, we are more worried about upsetting someones feelings versus getting the mission done. We spend more time doing ancillary training then actually training. Even though I have a military drivers license, I have to be signed off in another database to drive a vehicle and then have a competency card saying I know how to drive on top of that. That is just a few examples of why I have decided to call it quits.

And then we get to the bigger issue, America. Can anyone tell me what the following names mean? Thomas Sullivan, Skip Wells, Carson Holmquist, David Wyatt, or Randall Smith? Or is this easier for you — Cecil the lion or Caitlyn Jenner? Yes, we give more attention and respect to stars and animals then we do to those who continue to give their lives for this country.
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Life as a Vietnam prisoner of war, in the words of John McCain

By Lynn R. Mitchell

John McCain 1

Navy Pilot John McCain was captured after his plane crashed in 1967 and held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese for 5.5 years. This photo was taken of him after his capture in a Hanoi hospital with a fractured right leg and both arms.

 “For those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” – Unknown

~~~

“He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
– Donald Trump, speaking about Senator John McCain, 7/18/2015

I’m tired of Donald Trump. His 15 minutes of fame are over as far as the 2016 presidential convention, in my opinion, but I feel it’s important to contrast a life of privilege — Trump — with a life of service to country — John McCain, his father, and grandfather.

If you don’t read anything else about the debacle that is Trump bashing Senator John McCain’s service as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War and his five-plus years as a prisoner of war in the infamous Hanoi Hilton with men like Richmond’s Paul Galanti, read this Washington Post article (see What Donald Trump was up to while John McCain was a prisoner of war):

As McCain remained in solitary confinement, tapping messages on the filthy walls to his fellow POWs in Morse code, Trump was out partying at legendary nightclubs. … On March 14, 1973, McCain arrived back in America a physically broken man, but also a hero. That word has yet to be applied to Trump.

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