Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

GONZALEZ Family and Friends, I hope you are continuing to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend. Last year, the ship was deployed to the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility on Memorial Day, conducting operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. We paused last year on Memorial Day to read Freddy Gonzalez' Congressional Medal of Honor citation and then held a Critical Days of Summer Safety Stand Down. This year we are obviously in home port and able to spend all or part of the weekend with our family and friends. Last Friday before we put down liberty call, we again paused to continue the tradition of reading Freddy's citation, but added to it by summarizing the citations of the servicemen who have also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for our current conflicts.

So, I thought I would share the words from our Memorial Day Captain's Call. The Captain's Call followed an awards presentation and also included information on summer safety and changes to our long range scheduled which I have not included.
Memorial Day 2009_Captain's Call

Good morning, Shipmates. First of all, congratulations to everyone who was selected for advancement yesterday. Well done - a round of applause for our award recipients and advanced Sailors. It’s finally starting to feel like summer again after our brief chilly spell, and at least according to the weather service, it’s going to be a beautiful three day weekend!

So this Monday is Memorial Day – a day off for those not on duty, but more importantly a day to honor those who served and continue to serve our country. So, naturally I want to speak for a few minutes about Memorial Day first and then we’ll talk about the critical days of summer, safety, and some important changes to our long range schedule. Memorial Day is set aside to pay tribute to those who paid the supreme sacrifice for our country. And while there are actually quite a few stories as to the origin of Memorial Day, what is known as fact is that 141 years ago on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued General Order Number 11 to his Veteran's organization the Grand Army of the Republic:

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land…”

The order continued telling the crowd to cherish:

“…tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes. Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance…. “

Lastly, General Logan closed with...

“Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Eventually this day became a national holiday to honor fallen comrades from all our nation's wars, and so today we gather on the flight deck to remember those who served bravely in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq and other conflicts we faced as a nation. We also remember those POW’s and MIA’s who never returned home and the families who have never been able to bury their loved ones.

Memorial Day will always be more special to me because of my service with you onboard GONZALEZ. Having spent the past year and a few months learning and reading as much as I can about Freddy Gonzalez, I have come to realize how much more we as a nation can do to honor our Veterans and more specifically, our true American heroes - our Congressional Medal of Honor winners, Marines like Freddy Gonzalez. First, of all, I hope everyone out here realizes that whether you serve a single term of enlistment or twenty years or more, we will all be veterans ourselves one day. Secondly, and as I posted on our blog several weeks ago from an article written by someone else, how many of us on the flight deck today can name all the Congressional Medal of Honor winners from the current wars in which we are serving? Compare that against how many of us can name at least 1 American Idol winner. The point is certainly not intended to take a shot at American Idol, the point is to note what we consider important in our country. And I’m no different than anyone else. Until I thought about it myself, read the article and then took the time to read the bios of the Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors who had won the Medal of Honor since 9/11, I too, could have named more American Idol winners.

So on this Memorial Day we honor shipmates like Freddy Gonzalez. There is no greater gift a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine can give than to lay down his life for his country, his shipmates, and his God. The gift of one’s life for one’s country must never be forgotten or devalued. In 1971, our Congress made this day into a 3-day weekend with the National Holiday Act. In my humble and junior opinion, that particular act made it easy to be distracted from the spirit and intent of this day. This and every Memorial Day is about our duty to remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives so that we may live in a free country. This and every Memorial Day is about shipmates like Freddy Gonzalez, for all those who have fallen in combat. They were Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life and every creed. They fought bravely, and died not in vain, but in the glory of knowing that others will live to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let us never forget their sacrifices - not today, not on Memorial Day, not on any day.

So for this Memorial Day, we are going to do something old and something new. We are going to take a moment to read Freddy Gonzalez’ Medal of Honor citation once again and then take a moment to honor our most recent Medal of Honor recipients.

Attention to award:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as platoon commander, 3d Platoon, Company A. On 31 January 1968, during the initial phase of Operation Hue City, Sgt. Gonzalez' unit was formed as a reaction force and deployed to Hue to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered city. While moving by truck convoy along Route No. 1, near the village of Lang Van Lrong, the marines received a heavy volume of enemy fire. Sgt. Gonzalez aggressively maneuvered the marines in his platoon, and directed their fire until the area was cleared of snipers. Immediately after crossing a river south of Hue, the column was again hit by intense enemy fire. One of the marines on top of a tank was wounded and fell to the ground in an exposed position. With complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Gonzalez ran through the fire-swept area to the assistance of his injured comrade. He lifted him up and though receiving fragmentation wounds during the rescue, he carried the wounded marine to a covered position for treatment. Due to the increased volume and accuracy of enemy fire from a fortified machine gun bunker on the side of the road, the company was temporarily halted. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sgt. Gonzalez exposed himself to the enemy fire and moved his platoon along the east side of a bordering rice paddy to a dike directly across from the bunker. Though fully aware of the danger involved, he moved to the fire-swept road and destroyed the hostile position with hand grenades. Although seriously wounded again on 3 February, he steadfastly refused medical treatment and continued to supervise his men and lead the attack. On 4 February, the enemy had again pinned the company down, inflicting heavy casualties with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Sgt. Gonzalez, utilizing a number of light antitank assault weapons, fearlessly moved from position to position firing numerous rounds at the heavily fortified enemy emplacements. He successfully knocked out a rocket position and suppressed much of the enemy fire before falling mortally wounded. The heroism, courage, and dynamic leadership displayed by Sgt. Gonzalez reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

And now a moment to recognize those who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corporal Jason Dunham
Smothering a live hand grenade with his helmet and body, Dunham saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country.

Army Sergeant First Class Paul Smith
With total disregard for his own life, Smith maintained an exposed position to engage the enemy force. During this action he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.

Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy
While suffering grave gunshot wounds and knowingly exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy’s undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and inspirational devotion, in the face of certain death, ultimately led to the rescue and recovery of his fallen comrades.

Army Specialist Ross McGinnis
In a gallant act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, McGinnis pinned a live grenade thrown by an insurgent between his body and a vehicle. His extraordinary heroism and selfless action saved four men from certain serious injury or death.

Navy Petty Officer Second Class Michael Monsoor
Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, Monsoor threw himself onto a grenade hurled by an enemy fighter, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying nearby. His courageous and selfless actions saved the lives of two fellow SEALS.

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