After the dismal Covid spring of 2020, many Americans are eager to resume their communal displays of gratitude for the people whose sacrifices have allowed us to live in freedom.
“Memorial Day Parade returns Monday,” notes a headline in The Telegraph newspaper of Alton, Ill. No rain is expected and the parade will follow its traditional route. It seems the town’s tradition proved too strong even for Covid. The Telegraph’s Ron DeBrock reports:
The Alton Memorial Day Parade is one of the longest consecutive Memorial Day parades in the nation, dating back to 1868.
Last year COVID-19 concerns prevented the East End Improvement Association from hosting the parade. A small group, however, decided to meet at Alton Middle School for an unofficial Memorial Day procession. Word of the plan spread, and nearly 40 decorated vehicles participated in the extemporaneous event.
This year, such events are returning to normal. On America’s East Coast, volunteers have once again planted 37,342 American flags on Boston Common to honor all those from Massachusetts who have given their lives defending our nation since the Revolutionary War. Last year only a thousand flags were planted as the state imposed significant Covid restrictions.
Charlie McKenna reports for the Boston Globe on the families of the fallen who have come to honor their dead:
Melida Arredondo, whose stepson Alex was killed in Iraq in 2004, said fellow Gold Star families who take in the display share a unique connection.
“Being out here seeing the other families – there’s a bond. You might not even know the other family’s first name or whatever, you just remember the kids,” she said.
She said it was a profound feeling “just to be here and honor each other as those who have lost their loved ones, honoring the troops who have lost their compañeros, and honoring those from Massachusetts who have died for liberty.”
Of course those who have died for liberty come from every state. It is perhaps an especially good time to remember a hero from Colorado who died 50 years ago this week. U.S. Army Maj. William Edward Adams was a helicopter pilot who was killed trying to rescue comrades in Vietnam’s Kontum Province. When he set out he must have known how much the odds were stacked against him. The citation for his Medal of Honor notes that he “volunteered to fly a lightly armed helicopter in an attempt to evacuate three seriously wounded soldiers from a small fire base which was under attack by a large enemy force. He made the decision with full knowledge that numerous antiaircraft weapons were positioned around the base and that the clear weather would afford the enemy gunners an unobstructed view.”
Adams died on May 25, 1971. But he is not forgotten. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund maintains a website where people can post remembrances. A message posted earlier this month reads:
It was a pleasure serving under your command.
SP5 Robert Bryant
“Thank you for your service to our country so long ago sir. Rest in eternal peace,” wrote a man named John Fabris in March.
Older messages include a 2016 note from a Curt Carter saying, “I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country.”
“You were one of the brave that answered the call. You honored us by your service and sacrifice,” wrote Vietnam veteran Bob Ahles in 2016.
A year earlier Richard Greiss, “a fellow desert rat from Fort Irwin” in California recalled in a post that Adams was “selfless” and a “born leader.”
“I was blessed to have known you,” wrote veteran Philip Fogle, “when we were so young. You are forever in my memory and have my admiration for eternity.”
In 2013 retired Army Col. Donald Long wrote:
Bill and I were both assigned to the 176th Assault Helicopter Company in Ft. Benning, GA… We were both Captains at the time and were part of a team charged with packing up everything to get the unit to Vietnam. Bill was as hard a worker as I had ever seen… He, his wife Sandra and I with my wife did manage to go out for a nice meal one evening before we deployed. Time didn’t allow for more. When we arrived in Vietnam his work ethic continued. I was also impressed with his quiet and gentle manner of leadership…. I was totally shocked to learn of his death but not surprised at all at the actions he took to save others. That was Bill.
Back in 2001 an anonymous poster added:
I met Major Adams the second day I was assigned to the 227th at Lie Khe. I liked him right from the start. I was a door gunner and flew many missions with him between September 1970 and May 1971. He was a strong commander and a gentle leader. I was 19 years old and looked to him for not only military guidance but direction in life as well… I believe he is in the loving arms of God and I hope someday to see him there and tell him how much he influenced my life.
Perhaps the most compelling message was added in 2014:
POSTED BY: MELANIE
I MISS YOU
I’m doing a presentation again. Another presentation where I get to share your story.
Ama is always willing to tell me about it – about you. I wish you were here to tell me about it yourself. I wish you could witness the amazing mother and father your children have become, and the wonderful grandma Ama has been to my cousins and me.
I never met you, but I miss you, and I’m still not quite sure how that could be.
I hope that, someday, when I meet you, you’ll be proud of me. I can’t wait for the day I get to meet you.
In observance of Memorial Day this column will not publish on Monday, but will return on Tuesday.
James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”
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