Remembering true reason for Memorial Day

Published 6:09 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017

By Lynn Gendusa
Gendusa is a former resident and writer who currently resides in Roswell.

My son’s middle name is Davis.  His father’s middle name is the same.  Neither Corey nor his dad personally knew the uncle they were named in honor of, however they knew he was an important American.

James Davis Bailey was born in 1923 in South Carolina.  He died on January 31, 1944, on Anzio Beach in Italy.  He was 20 years old and a proud member of the 3rd Infantry Division of the US Army. 

Private Bailey was just one of thousands that gave their lives that day on Anzio and one of over a million U.S. service members to perish trying to protect this nation in World War II.

I ran my hand across the names of soldiers I knew on the Vietnam Wall in Washington.  My tears fell as I gazed at the items placed below this granite shrine for fallen and missing soldiers. Boots, flags, hats, flowers, notes, photographs and other memoirs were left by the loved ones of those lost.   

Larry was my ex-husband’s good friend and neighbor on Greenwood Street in LaGrange. When they were young boys they played army in their backyards with pretend forts, guns, and battalions. After their youth, one went to college and Larry went to Vietnam fulfilling his dream to be a soldier.  The world of pretend was over.

Lawrence David Kesler’s name is on the wall.  He never made it back to laugh with his friend again. He was 20 years old when he gave his life for America.

I grew up with twins: Mary and Bobby Ray in McMinnville, Tennessee.

Tall, thin Bobby made me laugh out loud with his antics and smile.   I sled down hills with him in the snow and can still hear him yelling, “Lynn look out for the tree!”, as my sled hit it dead on.   

I moved to Georgia and Bobby went into the service after a couple of years at college.   He became a Navy / Marine medic in Vietnam.    

On March 19, 1969, his unit was attacked near his An Hoa Combat Base. As a medic, he sprang into action. He pulled wounded men back and away from gunfire to attend them.  He was hit by a bullet, but kept on working to aid his comrades.

He took another shot, and still, the wounds didn’t stop him from saving the others.  When his injuries reduced him to near death, he noticed another buddy in need.  Bobby threw his body over his friend which absorbed the exploding grenade that was thrown toward them. His comrade survived. 

Bobby “Doc” Ray was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor, posthumously.

Elijah Walker and his brother David, were from Scotland via Ireland before landing in America. They were living here for only a few years before they were actively fighting in the American Revolution. They both starved to death as prisoners of war. They were born Scotsman yet died as Americans.

It is recorded that there has been over two and half million U.S. casualties due to conflicts and wars since we became a nation.  Our freedom to protect, protest and pray has been paid for with lives.

We live in a nation now that seems divided.  We are not the ones on the lines fighting. 

We are the ones that look at the world through the eyes of the media, the eyes of conservatives, liberals, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, men, women, gay, straight, tall, short , right or wrong.

I can guarantee you that neither James Davis, Larry, Bobby, Elijah, or David gave a thought about any of that as they lay dying on the battlefield. They died for all the people that call themselves Americans.

Without hesitation, these men along with over two million others, went where their country needed them and never came home.  May we never forget the sacrifices made by the few for so many.

In memory of those that gave the ultimate gift, please take a day to join hands as one nation and say, “thank you.” These soldiers deserve our respect and gratitude. 

We must as a country, never forget that we may not agree with everything our government does, but the one thing that we must all agree on is to support and honor those that defend it. Let Memorial Day mean something other than a day off or a picnic.   Let’s take a moment to gaze upon our flag, honor our soldiers and truly understand that we are still one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.

And, the reason that we are is because of those who now reside peacefully with God.