Thanks to Carol Megathlin of Savannah for sharing a story about Memorial Day.
Carol is involved with an adopt-a-soldier program for the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division based at Fort Stewart, Ga., and Honor Flight Savannah, which includes Beaufort County.
To learn more about the National Infantry Museum, which she writes about here, go to www.nationalinfantrymuseum.com.
'Flowers for the fallen'
By Carol Megathlin
Last Monday, I sat in the mid-morning sunshine in Columbus, Ga., wondering how many times Doug Magruder had said the names Mike Cromie, Don Stoltz, Chuck Williams, Willie Jones and Jon Kmit. They roll off Doug's tongue with ease, determined as he is to keep their memory alive. They were killed in action in Vietnam 45 years ago. But this time as he recited their names, his voice caught in his throat.
It was Memorial Day, one of two days each year that the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning dedicates pavers along a broad, flag-lined avenue called Heritage Walk. Hundreds had gathered to honor friends and family members with the brick-sized granite markers. One of the honorees was U.S. Army Cpl. Bryant Luxmore of the 1-64 Armor Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, killed in action on June 10, 2012.
We were at Heritage Walk to consecrate pavers for five 3rd Infantry Division soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Twelve members of Luxmore's family had traveled from Illinois for this ceremony. Eight of "Lux's" fellow soldiers had run, in relay, the 260 miles from Fort Stewart near Savannah to Fort Benning for the event. Twenty of them stood in formation in their dress uniforms as their fallen comrade was honored.
Doug Magruder had been the catalyst for commemorating Cpl. Luxmore's sacrifice. Why? Maybe it's because of those five names that come so readily to his lips. In the murky jungles of Vietnam, 1st Lt. Magruder had commanded the rifle platoon in which the fallen warriors had served.
How Doug came to know the Luxmores is too complicated to explain. But he felt the pain of their loss, and he wanted to acknowledge it. At the conclusion of the main ceremony, our group moved to the Illinois flag, where Cpl. Luxmore's battle buddies formed the backdrop for a private observance. The museum's vice president, Greg Camp, presented an Illinois flag to Cpl. Luxmore's family. It had flown over a large marker dedicated to the corporal, which lay at the base of the flagpole.
Then Doug began to speak.
"I'm proud to be a member of the Army of George Washington," he said, "and of Bryant Luxmore and of the soldiers standing behind me. And I'm proud to be a member of the Army of Mike Cromie, Don Stoltz ..." For the first time ever, his voice quivered over their names.
My eyes stung with tears. Here stood an American soldier, the embodiment of courage, pain, and sacrifice. A vibrant example of how to get on with life. He was reaching the hand of experience back to the families of the freshly fallen, comforting them with a bow to their pain and a nod toward the future.
War is hell, not just for soldiers but also for the people who love them. Especially the families -- and fellow soldiers -- of those who fall in combat. We do well to acknowledge the survivors' anguish, not just on Memorial Day but whenever fate offers us the opportunity.
On the way home to Savannah the next day, we detoured through Americus to visit my grandmother's grave. Along the narrow cemetery road we passed the small white monument of a soldier, his stone marked "Unknown." I asked my husband to stop. I took a stem of flowers from the bouquet meant for my grandmother and laid it on his grave.
It's never too late to place a flower at the feet of the fallen. Because we are eternally indebted to courage, and honor does not know a season.
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