A Memorial Day message

 Destin, Fla.—Happy Memorial Day from Destin where the annual SEC Spring Meetings get underway on Tuesday. We’ll get to that tomorrow. Today I want to share a personal experience that gave me a renewed sense of what this day is all about.

Back in January Maria and I were traveling in England and spent an entire day in Cambridge. It is, of course, one of the great university towns of the world. It is where Charles Darwin studied, where 80 Nobel prize winners attended, where DNA was first modeled, and where the atom was first split. The place is a little intimidating.

But my lasting memory of that day was a visit to the American World War II cemetery on the outskirts of Cambridge. Here a link to the site:

http://www.abmc.gov/cemeteries/cemeteries/ca.php

 Here is the entry from my diary back to friends and family in States:

“If you come here, make the World War II Memorial Cemetery the last stop on your tour. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,182 people who lost their lives in various campaigns in the war. Cambridge/London was the hub for the major Atlantic Air campaign into Germany and France. On a huge stone wall, called The Tablets of the Missing, are the names of 5,127 military personnel who were declared missing in action and were never recovered. Among the names on the wall is that of Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., the oldest of the nine Kennedy children, who was first in line to become President of the United States before his plane was shot down. Kennedy was only 29 when his plane exploded over Suffolk, England, on Aug. 12, 1944.

There is also the name of Alton G. Miller. We know him as Glenn Miller, the big band leader whose plane disappeared on Dec. 15, 1944, as he was flying from England to Paris to entertain the troops. Neither his plane nor his body was ever found.

Like the World War II Memorial and Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C, this place will make you think. Arthur Brookes, one of the curators, was nice enough to give us a tour and provide all of these details. This military cemetery and many others located in Europe are run by the American Battle Monument Commission (www.abmc.gov). The Commission was formed in 1923. The new Secretary of the ABMC is former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who was appointed by President Obama last May.”

 

We were the only visitors in the cemetery on that cold, January day as the sun began to set. I began to think about the extraordinary sacrifices these people made and the fact that they were never able to return home to their families.  I thought about all of the family members who had traveled here to see their loved ones.  All of those memories came back last night and so I decided that I wanted to share this with you.

Yeah, times are tough. The economy is bumpy and a lot of people are hurting. We’ve got a helluva mess out there in the Gulf and nobody seems to know how to plug a stupid hole. We’ve got a political system that is so divided that it seems like they can’t do a damned thing but point fingers at each other. There are people out there who want to blow up vans in Times Square, for God’s sake.  I know. We’ve got a lot going on just taking care of ourselves.

But today, let’s take a break from all that. Today let’s think of people like Pat Tillman, who could have made a bunch of money in the NFL but walked away in 2002 to serve his country at a time of war. He made the ultimate sacrifice when he was killed serving in Afghanistan in 2004. In December Tillman will be posthumously inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. It will take place at a black tie dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Bet there won’t be a dry eye in that room.

Let’s think about the thousands of our best and brightest who have gone to the Middle East and are in harm’s way not just today, but every day. Some of them, like the 5,127 men and women on that wall outside of Cambridge, will not be coming home.

We can think about our problems tomorrow. Today, let us be grateful for how many people have sacrificed so that we can have fun arguing about football. Let us be grateful that, for all its many shortcomings, we still live in the greatest country on the face of the Earth.

On the flight back from England I remember that once we got into American air space the pilot came on the PA and said: “Welcome to the United States of America.” Chills went up and down my arms. It was good to be home. I thought about all those people in the Cambridge cemetery who had made it possible for me to feel this way.

May God continue to Bless America and may we always remain grateful for His blessings.

Happy Memorial Day to you and your family.

Please follow me on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/MrCFB

43 comments Add your comment

1eyedJack

May 31st, 2010
9:26 am

Excellent sentiments Tony.

Seven Head

May 31st, 2010
9:30 am

Once again, Tony, you know how to keep us grounded…great piece!!!!!

NoGaGator

May 31st, 2010
9:38 am

Amen, Tony.

Being an optimist, we’ll get this thing going in the right direction. The pendulum will soon start swinging back in the right direction. Thank God and our defenders for our freedom and our democracy.

TommyP

May 31st, 2010
9:38 am

Good read until I got to Tillman. That story is messed up but the press only glorifies certain details. Dig into the whole story there and it’ll make you think differently.

Trappy

May 31st, 2010
9:38 am

God bless all our soldiers and those who sacrificed for this great country.

TommyJack

May 31st, 2010
9:39 am

touch’em all, TB.

Petey

May 31st, 2010
9:40 am

Tony, I am one on the faithful readers of your “messages”. I will say without any questions that this is the “very best” article, in my opinion, you have written. It is simple and not one person can be offended because he/she did not agree. When we talk priorties in our lives let us not forget that sports contests are only games, not the end all of all things.

collegeballfan

May 31st, 2010
9:42 am

Nice piece of writing Tony.

Remember what Memorial Day is all about guys. Keep it clean and honorable in memory of those who have fallen.

SHS

May 31st, 2010
9:45 am

Good morning, Tony! I know you and Maria (our daughters were cheerleaders together), so I always read your pieces. There’s never been one better than today’s. I am from a military family; my dad fought in World War II but was lucky enough to come home and continue to serve his country. My brother was a SAC pilot during the Vietnam War and also was lucky enough to come home. Several of my high school friends, including my first crush, did not return alive. Your essay brought tears to my eyes — and also chills up and down my arms as I visualized entering American air space and the pilot saying, “Welcome to the United States of America.” Thank you for sharing.

Dink

May 31st, 2010
9:47 am

Great post Tony. Reminded me of the late, great Clint Castlebury from Tech. Though an avid Dawg fan your blog and Memorial Day reminds me of the ultimate sacrifice made by friends and rivals. May they always be remembered.

uga fan in uva territory

May 31st, 2010
9:49 am

Tony – What a great article! Thanks and all I have to say is you “kicked and SCORED!”

[...] SEC officials will look at how they seed the conference basketball tournament.15.  Here’s a Memorial Day message from Tony Barnhart of The AJC.  Excellent as [...]

underdog

May 31st, 2010
9:55 am

First!!!! I mean…..Aw, #$@!!

Native Dawg

May 31st, 2010
10:02 am

Amen, Tony. Oustanding column. Thank God for the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. May the good Lord bless them and their families this Memorial Day, and every day. I am most thankful and grateful.

Bill

May 31st, 2010
10:24 am

Thanks Tony I have severd for 23 years and just reupped for 4 more.My comrades thank you for your sentiments today.

Worm

May 31st, 2010
10:26 am

Thanks Tony, Your articles fill Bisher’s void..Made me think of his annual Thanksgiving piece..

Beast from the East

May 31st, 2010
10:29 am

Thanks for reminding us, Tony!
Hope everyone has a great and safe Memorial Day!

anthony dennis

May 31st, 2010
10:33 am

well said,tony once again you hit the nail on the head

Rigger Spoon

May 31st, 2010
10:39 am

Thank you for comments. Memorial Day seems a little different this year being in Iraq instead of home. My platoon and I do appreciate the comments. We see it as just doing our jobs, but we are glad someone notices and cares we are out here making a sacrifice.

FRED

May 31st, 2010
10:40 am

AMEN TONY! TODAY FOOTBALL MEANS NOTHING.

FRED

May 31st, 2010
10:40 am

AMEN TONY! TODAY FOOTBALL MEANS NOTHING.

LTC Phil

May 31st, 2010
10:44 am

As a Vietnam veteran, it is good to see this kind of article. Vietnam was a one-year experience for most of us, which was quite enough. Soldiers and Marines today are spending multiple deployments that put exceptional strain on families and children in particular. It is nice to see all members of the military given the respect and credit they are due for their sacrifice. Individual service members do not start wars, and likePat Tillman, could have avoided the experience if they chose to do so.

Vols85

May 31st, 2010
11:32 am

A simple “thank you”, Tony, for putting today in perspective. I’ve been hit hard by the devastated economy, but for today I am focused on remembering the sacrifice of our service men and women — especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our collective behalf. As you say, for all its faults, this is still the greatest country in the world. So for today let us remember those who made it possible.

Gen Neyland

May 31st, 2010
11:39 am

There are really no words one can tie together that truly express what this day means. A name I’d like to offer up here that shouldn’t be forgotten is Ernie Pyle…

BAMA1

May 31st, 2010
11:41 am

Way to go Tony! Thanks to all who have served, and very much the wounded and dead

Andrew

May 31st, 2010
11:48 am

Good stuff Tony. Many thanks to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for myself, my family and others. Thank You.

Tiger Bait

May 31st, 2010
11:55 am

Great job Anthony. Thanks for sharing this with us!

buckblue

May 31st, 2010
12:30 pm

Congrats to LSU for winning the SEC baseball tournament for the third year in a row….

Joseph

May 31st, 2010
1:04 pm

Wow, i have never herd a better speech in my life

Tide Rising

May 31st, 2010
1:05 pm

Great article Tony. We need more Pat Tillmans. Happy Memorial Day everyone.

OldDawg55

May 31st, 2010
2:06 pm

Thanks for a great article, Tony. I get choked up every time I enter a national cemetery, knowing that all those residing in those “gardens of stone” gave something in whether or not it was in combat or in gentle repose of retirement. I spent 37 years in the service of my country but always feel inadequate during those visits. By the by, I recall coming home from Germany on leave in 1977 and having a customs official make my day with a simple, “welcome home!”. It meant a lot as well as a gate guard at a military installation greeting with, “thank you for your service”. All gave some, some gave all!

Steve Spurrier

May 31st, 2010
3:38 pm

Thanks, Tony. Good stuff.

uga'64

May 31st, 2010
6:30 pm

I was coming back from London in the 1980’s and the pilot came on, that we were in The United States of America. People starting cheering. It was fantastic.

secondguesser

May 31st, 2010
7:08 pm

Nice work Mr. Barnhart. This is the best article I’ve ever read of yours. I thank you very much for it. I sit here with wet eyes as I remember a great Gator fan and one tough ass marine. He was my hero and my father. I miss him much! Thanks dad for everything! May God bless our troops! Every one of you are heroes!

marseilles mutt

May 31st, 2010
8:15 pm

Great post Tony; quite timely and nice to read something positive for a change. We can never be too grateful to the men and women who have, are and will serve our great country.

Football ‘wars’ mean very little and our ‘heroes of the gridiron’ pale in comparison to those who stormed th beaches of Normandy. Sicily, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, et al in the “Big War”, fought in the frozen hills around Inchon, or were killed or wounded in the jungles of Indochina.

While even one American life is sacred, I womder how many realize that almost as many American fliers lost their lives in ONE DAY on a raid over the oil fields of Romania- Polesti- as have been killed in the entire conflict in Iraq. Doesn’t make it any more right, however. I am just saying…

My thoughts today are with those who paid that ultimate sacrifice, but my prayers are for those brave
kids- volunteers all- who are representing us on foreign shores.

Big debt, and no repayment in sight.

Jake

May 31st, 2010
8:36 pm

Tony, you out did yourself once again. Not only are you a great College Football Sport writer, you have the ablity to sit us down and make us think once again just how wonderful we have it here in America. I went today to the top of Signal Hill Greeneville Tenn, ( President Andrew Johnson National) and saw all those white cross markers, standing for all the our REAL hero’s who lost their lives to perserve this countries freedoms. I even saw my Dad’s white stone where he severed in WWII and Korea. What an honor for me to stand on this hill and witness this. I too had cold chills. Yeah, it’s place,, we call AMERICA!

quaildawg

May 31st, 2010
10:22 pm

Amen and Amen!!!

Whopper Dawg

June 1st, 2010
1:14 am

Hear, hear!! Good job!!

#2 BAMA FAN

June 1st, 2010
6:50 am

Like others have said THANK YOU Ladies and Gentlemen for your service to our country!!

RomeDawg

June 1st, 2010
8:15 am

My favorite article of yours! Well written. Thanks.

RAMBLE ON!!!

June 1st, 2010
8:41 am

Great post Tony!!!

Yoda

June 1st, 2010
8:45 am

TB..if you ever go to Europe again…try taking a stroll though the American War Cemetary at Normandy that’ll put a lump in your throat…seeing 9300+ Crosses and Markers

BAMA1

June 1st, 2010
8:53 am

A message like this, makes me happy for several reasons. But what stands out to me…is we love our SEC football, and we get mad at each other alot, but WE ARE AMERICANS FIRST AND VERY PROUD TO BE! THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE SERVED, AND GOD BLESS OUR MILIITARY FAMALIES.