Editor’s Note: First off I would like to thank our contributor, Vietnam Veteran, Dr. Duane Vachon for this Memorial Day piece and his service to our country. When Duane sent me this article it needed to be illustrated so I dug into my family archives and decided to illustrate it with art dedicated to Henri (aka Hank) Carbonell, an Army Air Corps pilot who died in a training accident on July 21, 1943. Hank immigrated from France prior to the Second World War with his parents and was an only child. He became best friends with my father (John Kay), also an immigrant, while they attended City College of San Francisco. After my father died, I found Hank’s obituary as well as the above photo. Quite coincidentally, I found a photo of his grave in at the National Cemetery near San Francisco courtesy of findagrave.com . With no living relatives in this country, someone like Hank might be easily forgotten so I thought it fitting that he be honored this Memorial Day.  

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This week’s article is written to honor the 42 million veterans who served in combat during America’s wars.  During those wars 651,008 gave their lives in combat.

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Obituary for Henri Carbonell from the San Francisco Chronicle dated August 2, 1943. Henri’s whereabouts in were classified, hence the term “Latin America” was used.

On Monday May 30th Memorial Day services will take place across the country.  Across this great country and throughout the world Americans will pause this Monday to honor our brave fighting men and women who for more than 230 years have underwritten our freedom by their duty, honor, and selfless-service.

We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country and some have given all, laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.

On Monday May 30th, as we reflect on the blessings of our liberty, we ask our Heavenly Father that we may be faithful stewards of the freedom we have been granted. Let us never forget that we cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of our freedom without remembering the great price paid for that freedom.

We stagger at the eternal debt we owe to the untold number of American Veterans who chose to set aside their personal ambitions and dreams to assure the wellbeing of our great nation. We, the living, are indeed the beneficiaries of those who made tremendous sacrifices for the advancement and surety of our liberty.

May we always be humbly grateful to those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of God and for the freedom of all Americans.

For those soldiers who have stood guard in peacetime and to those who have seen the terror, the horror and inhumanity of combat, and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let it be said that our soldiers have been there for America defending the Constitution of the United States.

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Henri Carbonell grave site at the National Cemetery near San Francisco

To all our veterans we have a simple yet heartfelt message, “thank you”. Thank you for your unwavering service in peacetime and war, here in this nation, and throughout the world.

For all veterans, regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, they have paid the price time and time again. They have defended America through both the best and worst of times. They have performed their duties tirelessly, with little recognition or fanfare.

They have sought neither fortune nor fame. It was merely a simple love of America and the freedoms we all cherish so much.

Solders know what it is like to stand guard in the chill of the night while others sleep.

While we pay homage to all American Veterans I particularly want to thank our Vietnam Veterans on this Memorial Day. We served in a war that deeply divided our nation, but America is resilient. We are a country of temperance, compassion and reason, and with the passage of time we healed our wounds.

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National Cemetary, just south of San Francisco

I know many of you have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. During the day there the black granite absorbs all the sunlight of the day, then radiates the heat during the evening hours. If the evening is cool and crisp you can see a mist coming off the wall. For me it’s as if the 58,253 names are breathing life into my body and I feel invigorated knowing that these men and women gave their lives so all of us can continue to live the American Dream.

Monday May 30th is our day of conscience.

For although it is a monument to victory, it is also a symbol of failure.  Just as it honors the dead, so must it humble the living.

Memorial Day is a constant reminder that we won a war and lost a peace.

It is both a tribute and an indictment. A tribute to the men who died that their neighbors might live without fear of aggression. An indictment of those who lived and forfeited their chance for peace.

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Author and Vietnam veteran Dr. Duane Vachon. Photo was taken at Punchbowl, National Cemetery of the Pacific.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific

Therefore, while Memorial Day is a day for pride, it is for pride in the achievements of others, and for humility in our own.

We have learned that the winning of wars does not in itself make peace. And not until Pearl Harbor did we learn that non-involvement in peace means certain involvement in war.

Lastly I would like to talk about service to your country and community. I have always felt it was an honor to serve my country, and I continue to serve today not in the military but in my community. All of you should be doing the same.

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The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.

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