In Memory of Those who Died.

Ah, Memorial Day – beginning of summer. Picnics with scorched hot dogs, raw hamburgers, and worn out moms. A holiday. A time for fun and games with the kids. A day when Anericans can forget their maxed out credit cards, and tenuous jobs.

No, it's not that – although that is a typical description of how most people will spend this day. It's really a day when we can do all of the above, and most important, benefit from all the freedom we take for granted. Freedom that was (and is being) bought with the lives of young Americans who have died in many wars.

But wars are not just "things" that happen across seas. War touches everyone, even if bullets are not whizzing past our ears. Quite likely, unless it affected your family, you have never heard of the huge number of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who die before they even reach the battlefields.

My brother was one of those. He was a Second Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps – a fighter pilot who flew P-47 "Thunder bolts." He was on his way to England when he hitched a ride on the wrong C-47. It crashed in northern Nebraska, killing 28 pilots. That one week (the first week of August in 1944) fifty-four airmen were killed in unrelated accidents in Nebraska and Iowa alone. Note: Many Army airfields were built in the plains states because the land was so flat it allowed quick and easy construction. Unfortunately, it is also the part of the U.S. which sees the biggest and most dangerous thunderstorms in the summer months – a major cause of air crashes in those days.

In total, from 1941 to 1945, there were 16,000 airmen who died in this country before making it to Europe or the Pacific battle fields. Yet they are almost totally forgotten on this day when we see the thousands of white crosses of Normandy on TV. Their names are not carved in stone, they are not even in archieve records. But we shouldn't forget them – because they were just as much the heroes as those went on to die in foreign countries.

I know I won't forget, because my brother was my idol, and he is just as much responsible for me having the freedom to write this, as anyone else who selflessly gave their lives for this nation.

johnny b.

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